In a recent issue of the Globe and Mail, I read an article that should make all business leaders and educators stop, think, and take action.

Victor Dodig, President and CEO of CIBC stated that in the past 10 years, Canada has lost 17 percent of its manufacturing capacity. That’s 10,500 of our manufacturing plants! And it’s unrealistic to think we will regain this capacity. Why?

Over the same 10 year period, postsecondary education enrollment has grown from 42 to 53 percent in Canada. That’s the highest among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. But behind these positive statistics is a disturbing trend.

Just 20 percent of our graduates are from the essential science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors. That is a significantly lower proportion of graduates than 22 other OECD countries.

These are the very people and skills needed to create high-value jobs for the future. Yet for the most part, Canadian students are choosing an education that has them acquiring credentials rather than the skills the labour market needs.

So where does that leave Canada, and what do we do?

As stated in a 2013 report from the World Economic Forum, “The most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human talent – the skills and productivity of its work force.”

Human talent can be Canada’s competitive edge. But we need to promote education choices that match the needs of the current and emerging job markets. Our governments need to support emerging industries that will focus on creating solutions in the global supply chain, as opposed to building products.

Look closely and you’ll see that emerging firms have one thing in common – they’re innovators who want to find new and better ways of creating value.

Canada needs to do a better job of building the intellectual capital and skills necessary to thrive in our modern economy and drive innovation. Because in today’s economy, innovation is an absolute necessity.

About Dale

Dale Wilcox is co-owner of WATMEC. Dale is a respected board member, former volunteer of the year, and inaugural Chair of the Canadian Society for Training and Development.