BY Jamie-Anne Gilbert & Erika Tremblay

Gen Massage, a Montreal company owned by Genesse Simons, is looking for workers. Despite offering opportunities in the health and wellness industry, Simon’s company struggles to find new employees, reflecting a broader trend affecting businesses across the country.

“With the current labour crisis, it is extremely frustrating for me to try to hire new staff members for my business,” says Simons. “The health and wellness sector has a lot to offer, but we are seriously restricted by a shortage of workers.”

“Regardless of any situation, every woman deserves the benefits of a good massage,” Simons adds. “I would like to encourage women to treat themselves. But despite providing affordable massages businesses like mine are still going through a difficult period, and we’re feeling the pressure more than ever.”

Genesse Simon from Gen Massage offering a massage to one of her regular customers

Genesse Simon from Gen Massage offering a massage to one of her regular customers. Photo by Jamie-Anne Gilbert.

Major industries in Quebec are more affected than others by the province’s considerable labour shortage. Studies show that one of the primary causes of labour shortage in Canada is the ageing population.

A study conducted in June of 2023, shows that eight and a half million workers are above 45 years old. As more people retire, we have a growing shortage of skilled workers including teachers, physicians, nurses, dentists, vets, engineers, and lawyers.

A report by BuildForce Canada estimates that to fulfil demand and replace retirees, Canada will need to hire 309,000 additional workers over the course of the next ten years.

In Quebec, the persistently high unemployment rates over the years have been a cause for concern, highlighting a complex issue that is linked to the ongoing worker shortage.

Despite efforts to increase job recruitment and improve employment opportunities, the province continues to grapple with elevated levels of unemployment, indicating a mismatch between the skills and qualifications of the available workforce and the demands of the labour market. This imbalance not only contributes to the unemployment crisis but also contributes to the existing worker shortage, as businesses struggle to find qualified candidates to fill vacant positions.

Infographic on worker shortage in high demand fields.

An overview of the most high demand jobs in Canada in 2024. Media by Jamie-Anne Gilbert.

According to Amy Soulis, a counsellor with the Dawson College student employment centre, higher education institutions are moving to help match students to vacant jobs.

“Many colleges are committed to providing a comprehensive education that not only focuses on academic excellence but also prepares students for the realities of the job market,” says Soulis.

Programs like l’alternance travail-études (ATE) are one of many offered in school. It provides students with hands-on experience, helps them develop practical skills, and enables them to build a professional network while completing their studies. In Quebec, ATE programs are particularly common where they are seen as a way to bridge the gap between education and the workforce, and to help students transition smoothly into their careers.

“We offer programs that incorporate work-integrated learning, internships, and co-op placements, allowing students to gain valuable experience and develop the skills necessary to succeed in their chosen fields,” says Soulis.

In Canada, some of the sectors with the highest demand are engineering, logistics, and trades due to several key factors. There has been a great need for qualified professionals in these industries due to retiring workers, technological improvements, and the ongoing rise of infrastructure projects.

Justin Simard, an advisor for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), says the government is also trying to fix the labour shortage.

“To tackle the labour shortage, the Government of Canada is making concrete investments in key sectors of need,” says Simard. “In January 2024), Minister Boissonnault announced $86 million to 15 organisations across Canada. The government expects this funding to support over 6,600 participants directly, and several thousand more through foreign credential recognition system improvements,”

The government is also making investments to guarantee that underrepresented groups may access skill-building programs. The minister has promised $28.9 million for 15 initiatives, providing nearly 6,400 women with the apprenticeship training and support they require to enter the skilled trades.

To counter the worker shortage, the government started an initiative to pay students to do their DVS in the construction domain. Video by Erika Tremblay.

“Since 2007, the Government of Canada has invested in the College and Community Innovation (CCI) program to help Canadian institutions partner with businesses, providing companies access to the talent and the tools needed for innovative solutions while students develop the skills to excel in and contribute to Canada’s competitive economy,” says Simard. “Participating in applied research allows college students to develop a real-world experience that connects them to the workforce and enables them to support private sector innovation.”

The department funds projects and programs that promote education in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—which are in great demand in today’s labour market.

Nathanyel Sriranganathan, is a graduate Student, from Montmorency College in the development of computer applications program. These programs are frequently created with input from the industry, guaranteeing that students gain the particular information and abilities that employers are seeking.

“Finding a job after graduating is a mix of ease and difficulty. On one hand, the demand for skilled computer engineers is incredibly high, and there are plenty of opportunities available,” says Sriranganathan.

“But with so many skilled people competing for the same jobs, competition may be harsh. It is essential to show not just your technical skills but also your other abilities, such as communication and teamwork, which are highly regarded in the industry. Getting a job in computer engineering is certainly attainable with proper planning and perseverance.”

Main image by Jamie-Anne Gilbert.
Published May 7, 2024.