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Policy & Research

Saskatchewan’s labour crisis: Balancing record exports with skilled worker shortages

September 7, 2023

By Jordan Ewart, Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce

As summer approaches, Saskatchewan finds itself in a unique position. On one hand, the government recently celebrated a remarkable achievement: record exports in 2022, soaring to an astonishing $52 billion, a staggering 42 per cent increase from the previous year. This extraordinary growth, primarily fueled by potash sales, has solidified Saskatchewan’s position in the global market. However, on the other side of the equation, the province’s employers are grappling with a daunting challenge – a severe shortage of skilled and experienced workers.

The implications of this labour crisis extend far beyond the potash industry, impacting the broader Saskatchewan economy. Unfilled positions pose a risk to production capacities, potentially resulting in significant revenue losses. Furthermore, failing to meet market demands due to the shortage could tarnish Saskatchewan’s reputation as a reliable potash supplier, leading to diminished market share and decreased competitiveness.

Understanding the severity of the labour crisis is crucial for addressing the pressing issue and ensuring the overall economic growth of the province. Employers in Saskatchewan are struggling to hire individuals for positions that require varying levels of education, from less than high school to high school and occupation-specific training. Moreover, attracting and retaining skilled workers in remote areas of the province has proven to be an ongoing challenge for employers.

The shortage of skilled workers in Saskatchewan carries significant implications for its industries and economy at large. Businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to locate qualified individuals for a range of positions, hampering their operational needs. The lack of skilled workers in roles that require lower education levels and occupation-specific training adversely affects local industries’ productivity and competitiveness. Additionally, the challenge of attracting and retaining skilled workers in remote areas limits economic development and opportunities in those regions. Addressing this shortage is not only vital for immediate business success, but also for the long-term sustainable growth and prosperity of Saskatchewan’s economy as a whole.

Resolving the labour crisis necessitates collaborative efforts among various stakeholders, including businesses, post-secondary institutions, Indigenous communities, leaders, and government. By working together, these parties can effectively manage the labour crisis and overcome the intense competition for skilled workers, not only within the potash industry, but across multiple sectors. Building robust relationships, fostering partnerships, and investing in targeted initiatives will be crucial for attracting, developing, and retaining a skilled workforce that meets the demands of Saskatchewan’s industries.

Engaging Indigenous communities is paramount in addressing the labour crisis. Collaborating with Indigenous leaders and organizations can help unlock a significant pool of untapped talent, empowering Indigenous individuals with the skills and opportunities to contribute meaningfully to Saskatchewan’s economy. By promoting inclusivity and fostering Indigenous workforce development, Saskatchewan can achieve greater diversity and strengthen its labour force.

In conclusion, Saskatchewan stands at a crucial crossroad, with record-breaking exports on one hand and a severe shortage of skilled workers on the other. The path forward requires bold and collaborative action from all stakeholders involved. To address this, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce has established a labour market council of industry leaders to begin development of a solutions-based approach to providing labour market insight and recommendations to the provincial government and Saskatchewan employers.

By prioritizing investments in training programs, fostering partnerships between industry and educational institutions, and engaging Indigenous communities, Saskatchewan can unlock its full potential. With a skilled workforce that meets the demands of the province’s industries, Saskatchewan can continue to be a global leader in potash production and drive sustainable economic growth for years to come. The labour crisis presents a challenge, but it also presents an opportunity for Saskatchewan to showcase its resilience, innovation, and commitment to building a prosperous future.

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