Published On: Monday, 11 September 2017

Closing Indigenous Skills Gaps Key to Future Success

Closing Indigenous Skills Gaps Key to Future Success

- The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies through research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review.

CANADA - Closing the skills gap between working-age Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians is essential for the economic success of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, according to a report from the C.D. Howe Institute.

In “Closing the Divide: Progress and Challenges in Adult Skills Development among Indigenous Peoples,” authors Parisa Mahboubi and Colin Busby find both progress and challenges in the adult skills development attained by off-reserve Indigenous people, including troubling results for those without a high-school education, and recommend solutions.

The authors assess shortcomings and successes in skills development for Indigenous people relative to non-Indigenous Canadians from the 2012 Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) – a major international survey on adult skills.

The PIAAC survey is a unique information source on working-age skills, especially for Canada, because it provides a rich picture of skills development in the labour force on a regional basis. Further, with large samples of immigrants and off-reserve Indigenous people, which include First Nations, Métis and Inuit, it allows analysis of the performance of a number of critical populations.

The authors find:

  • Skills gaps between off-reserve Indigenous people – First Nations, Métis and Inuit – and non-Indigenous Canadians are wide among those without a high-school education – a gap compounded by relatively high dropout rates among Indigenous youth.
  • Skills gaps are largest in northern communities, the western provinces and in Ontario.
  • Importantly, the gap in literacy scores between Indigenous and non-Indigenous population shrinks with more education, but both First Nations and Inuit experience large skills gap at any education level.

However, the good news are the literacy score gaps largely reduce upon completion of high school for First Nations and Inuit, and the gaps are small among Metis.

What is to blame? Identifiable socioeconomic factors collectively account for over half of the skills gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. In particular, differences in education levels and the characteristics of the home environment explain the largest share of this gap.

“A thriving Canada must see everyone benefit from economic progress. This means ensuring a prosperous future for Indigenous people,” says Mahboubi.

They conclude improving gaps in educational attainment should be a part of efforts to reduce skills gaps, especially when it comes to establishing foundational skills in primary and secondary education.