As I pen this column, the Canadian federal budget was just handed down to the seemingly most taxed country in the modern world.
While that statement may not be true, it feels like it. And what this budget did was make that statement truer now than it was two days ago.
The federal government is spending $30 billion a year for the next three years on programs that I believe are lame-duck programs for the most part.
Here's the skinny.
The new Innovation Canada budget recognizes the fact that the day of unskilled jobs is over. While they say that they had no clue about this 10-20 years ago, they probably did but chose not to deal with it then.
My email tagline is “Crisis, Necessity, Change,” and indeed we are now in full crisis mode with the economics of how to deal with and help misplaced worker bees in our economy. This includes the refugees that we have brought into our country that don’t even have the language skills to get a job, if they existed.
So, they are throwing $6 billion at the crisis wall, hoping that some of it will stick. $6 billion. And who wants to fill in the blank as to how many jobs will be filled by the people who partake in this Innovation Canada budget proposal and get training for a job that may or may not exist?
My bet is less than 5%. Companies will use the opportunity to get some to do work under the training umbrella and release them after the funding is gone; I hope I’m wrong.
Back in the 1980s, I started and ran the training center for Allen-Bradley in the wonderful city of Toronto—home of the future Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs.
In three years, I ran courses from basic PLC programming and troubleshooting to system design. We did process control courses, communications and advanced programming techniques, as well as graphics and SCADA.
We sometimes had 24 people in class due to high demand. Life was good. The people who were there were sent by their companies to expand their knowledge base and to hopefully bring these skills back to their plants and provide their companies with the benefits that training is supposed to bring—reduced costs and higher efficiencies.
I would like to say that of the more than 1,000 students who I trained, there were a lot of benefits for these companies, and, while I take some credit, the quality of the student was relatively high in most cases. And PLCs were still relatively new, so the beast was hungry.
The caveat to all of this is that the training costs were subsidized greatly by the government. So why wouldn’t you send your best guys to get better skills? Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch.
Remember that these people were already in the industry.
So, who will take this innovation training today? The news is filled with stories of retail being strangled by the likes of Amazon. I admit to doing Christmas shopping on Amazon, but only 50%.
So, the jobs that the untrained and unskilled have, but not for long, have no business being in the industry. No disrespect meant, but you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. When you hire someone at a base-level position in your facility, you want that person to be able to hit the ground running.
I read an article about Mercedes and BMW hiring workers to assist robots. Seriously. They are removing the larger brute-force robots and replacing them with smaller, more agile robots that have proven to be safe while working beside a human.
They are hiring people who do not need any specific skills per se to help the robots decide what to do. Mercedes’ comment was that their new models, which have advanced with the use of technology, have too many options and the matrix of options is too complex for software and engineering to allow the robot to do them. It required a thought-process shift, and this shift required an out-of-the-box decision to hire more people to help the machines.
It’s such a great idea. The implementation is new, but think of how governments can help companies to rejuvenate their plants and increase efficiency, employment, safety and capital expenditure. Now that would help everyone.
I have no idea how you would train these people, but I have good idea that they wouldn’t have to be a Cisco tech.
Some other good news is Starbucks is building many new stores globally. In North America, there will be 68,000 jobs—220,000 globally—in the next five years. Not so bad, but they will have to train their new hires, I’m sure. Evaluation of prospective hires is paramount. I hope that all monies are well-spent, and let’s do it responsibly with a vision of the future.