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The feds got this one wrong

Just imagine if you will, an almost perfect collaboration between government and industry with a longstanding track record of delivering valuable products, research and information that both parties agree is needed.


Just imagine if you will, an almost perfect collaboration between government and industry with a longstanding track record of delivering valuable products, research and information that both parties agree is needed.

And just imagine that in this arrangement, representatives are drawn from from all aspects of the particular industry involved so that the voices of all the interested parties are listened to and the industry they represent is the better for their efforts.

If that sounds very close to a perfect world, it is – or was until recently. You see, that’s exactly what the Sector Council Program, managed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) delivered.

But, as happens from time to time, our federal government makes decisions that adversely affect individuals and industry and that’s what happened when it unilaterally cancelled this successful program late in 2011.

Some of you not familiar with the program may be wondering precisely what a Sector Council is, so let me crib from HRSDC’s Web site to offer some explanation:

Sector councils are national partnership organizations that bring together business, labour and educational stakeholders. Operating at an arm’s length from the Government of Canada, sector councils are a platform for these stakeholders to share ideas, concerns and perspectives about human resources and skills issues, and find solutions that benefit their sector in a collective, collaborative and sustained manner.

Through the support of the Sector Council Program, sector councils undertake a number of activities to respond to skills and labour market issues affecting their sectors, including the development and implementation of: labour market information products to allow businesses to plan human resources and project investments; national occupational standards to facilitate labour mobility (including apprenticeship), influence college curricula and promote health and safety in the workplace; targeted recruitment and skills development initiatives to increase labour force participation and integration of under-represented groups such as Aboriginal people and immigrants; education partnerships leading to curriculum that meets industry needs; skills development tools, including e-learning; essential skills initiatives; and tools and approaches to integrate foreign-trained workers.

Sector councils plan and undertake activities to anticipate and respond to skills and labour market issues affecting their sectors, including the development and implementation of: labour market information products to allow businesses to plan human resources and project investments; national occupational standards to facilitate labour mobility (including apprenticeship), influence college curricula and promote health and safety in the workplace; targeted recruitment and skills development initiatives to increase labour force participation and integration of under-represented groups, such as Aboriginal Peoples and immigrants; efforts to ensure that curricula meet industry needs; skills development tools, including e-learning; essential skills initiatives; and tools and approaches to integrate foreign-trained workers.

The sector council that addressed human resources issues pertaining to the trucking industry is the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC). I have previously written about their accomplishments in this space. (Disclaimer: PMTC is a founding member of CTHRC and I am on its Executive Committee).

Throughout its history CTHRC has been successful in bringing all facets of trucking to the table – labour, insurance, driver training schools, private fleets, for-hire carriers, owner/operators, driver supply agencies – you get the picture. This inclusive ensemble has come together with a unified voice, and with the able and dedicated CTHRC staff, has accomplished a great deal on behalf of the trucking industry.

Some of the accomplishments may be better known than others: a sterling program for training new drivers; refreshers for experienced drivers; dispatcher training; business planning for owner/operators; and an invaluable guide to human resources that should be on every fleet manager’s desk. These were some of the most visible of CTHRC’s contributions to the industry.
Less visible, but equally important were the in-depth industry research and efforts to bring some commonality to Canadian licensing standards. It is an excellent track record of success.

CTHRC has been so successful that it achieved ‘exemplary’ status during HRSDC’s reviews of the program – one of only a few sector councils to be so recognized. It is a tribute to its staff and leadership that CTHRC attained that status.

As pointed out above, CTHRC is comprised of just about every imaginable sector of the industry. This is important because it is this group that has determined which projects or issues CTHRC should deal with.

Once consensus was reached by the group on the projects to be undertaken, CTHRC would present them to HRSDC along with an explanation of the benefits expected, and with HRSDC’s approval would undertake them. All projects were governed by strict time, budgetary, and deliverable guidelines.

This process presented industries in the sector council program with the opportunity to identify their needs with respect to human resource issues, and advise government accordingly. These needs varied by industry but typically included such topics as training curriculum, occupational standards, and labour market research.

Who better to identify those needs than the industry most affected? With the demise of the sector council program, HRSDC’s new strategy, as explained to the CTHRC board of directors, is for government to decide what the industry needs, and then to tender projects accordingly.

Our question is, without the industry advising government on its needs, how will the government know what we need? The suggested process is, in our view, completely backwards.

Just before the program was shuttered there were approximately 30 such sector councils in operation representing industries that are important to the Canadian economy.

If it was deemed necessary to reduce funding for the Sector Council Program, we wonder why it was eliminated for all sector councils? Surely those deemed exemplary should have been encouraged to continue their work.

It’s the baby with the bath water scenario.


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