The home front

Canada doesn’t have enough millwrights, manufacturing engineers and others with the right training required for highly skilled jobs. Time was when such workers were taught elsewhere: Germany, Austria, Hungary and England. Those easy sources dried up long ago. Our misdirected immigration system is focussed on family reunification, a noble cause, but not a policy that produces ready-to-go workers.

Each spring another problem becomes apparent. Too many graduates head for jobs in the United States and never come back. According to a story in the March issue of ROB Magazine, there are 350,000 Canadians working for Google, Apple, Facebook and hundreds of other high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Even in its heyday, Research In Motion – “We built the refinery right next to the gold mine,” Mike Lazaridis famously said – couldn’t attract the top grads. Microsoft regularly creamed off the best and the brightest. When Bill Gates toured the top half dozen campuses in North America where Microsoft recruited, he always visited Waterloo, his only stop in Canada.

As a result of this ongoing brain drain, Canada has too few global companies. Imagine what we could do with entrepreneurial managers who knew their stuff and had access to a pool of trained workers who possessed the necessary skills. Here are my two modest proposals, one for each problem:

First, for skilled workers, why reinvent the wheel? Copy the German apprenticeship model. Even the most unlikely proponent, French president Nicholas Sarkozy, is currently advocating German methods to French voters.

Second: any graduate who leaves the country for a job in the U.S. (or goes to the U.S. for grad school and does not return) must remit to the province where he or she graduated all the money spent by the state on his/her post-secondary education. Why should our taxpayer dollars go to enrich another country?

Money from the second could pay for the first. The benefits would accrue to all.

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