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Putting People First

It is well-known that the demographic profile of the Canadian labour market has shifted dramatically over the past decade, as the "baby boom" generation matures and begins to retire, and the "Nexus" generation enters the labour force. In other words, we are entering the tightest labour market since the 1950s. As a result, the pool of available new recruits is shrinking, competition for good people is growing, and the overall profile of the existing workforce is aging.

The challenges posed by these trends are particularly acute for Defence and the Canadian Forces. Both the military and civilian components of the portfolio rely heavily on a skilled, trained workforce. Furthermore, because of both downsizing and low recruiting in the 1990s, the shift in the age profile of both the Canadian Forces and the Department is more pronounced than the profile of the Canadian labour market as a whole.

While Defence has taken action to strengthen its recruiting program, these trends are producing growing pressures on the Forces' ability to meet training requirements. In brief, high recruiting rates are creating downstream pressures on the Canadian Forces training system, which must train the larger number of recruits coming in. The Canadian Forces also continue to face significant recruiting challenges in particular occupations-such as medical professionals, certain technicians, combat engineers, communications personnel, sea operations, and intelligence personnel. Similar pressures are also emerging in the civilian workforce, which is facing recruiting and retention pressures in areas such as personnel management, project management, and the information-management and information-technology trades.

At the same time, the expectations of the workforce are changing, particularly among younger employees and members. Most young Canadians entering the labour market today have never owned a record player, never seen a typewriter, and have grown up with remotes, cable, and computers. This generation-the Nexus generation-tends to be very independent, has high expectations in terms of professional development, and wants the organizations it works for to ensure a meaningful balance between work and home life.

Against this backdrop, Defence must clearly do more to demonstrate that it is making the changes needed to position the Department, the Canadian Forces, and the entire defence portfolio as an employer of choice. This includes seeing through efforts to strengthen leadership and professional development, reform the military health-care system, and improve human-resource management.

Defence must also do more to increase diversity. As a national institution, it is vital for Defence and the Canadian Forces to reflect the population it serves. The face of Canada is changing. The country is becoming more diverse, with more women, Aboriginal people, and people from visible-minority groups entering the workforce. However, more can and should be done to reach out to these communities, overcome cultural and attitudinal barriers to diversity both within and outside the institution, and embrace and nurture diversity throughout the Defence portfolio.

To this end, Defence will continue to put people first in fiscal year 2002-03. Its human-resource priorities are to:

  • strengthen its capacity to recruit and retain people;
  • further develop learning and professional-development programs;
  • see through reforms to military health care;
  • improve human-resource management; and
  • increase diversity and promote inclusiveness in the workforce.
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