LETHBRIDGE, AB – A new study will help point the way forward for southwestern Alberta’s economic growth.

The final results of the Southwest Alberta Regional Skills Study were released this week and they show opportunities to enhance skills development throughout the region to support economic growth particularly during the region’s COVID-19 economic recovery.

The study took feedback from employers and job seekers across the region to better understand this area’s labour market strengths and challenges.

“We are part of a unique economic ecosystem, and this study confirms we play a key role in training the employees that support our local job market,” says Dr. Paula Burns, Lethbridge College President and CEO. “This is achieved through both our traditional programming and through our increased focus on working with local industry to develop up-skilling, re-skilling and micro-credential programs that meet the immediate needs of industry. We will continue to increase our work-integrated learning opportunities that support our local economy.”

A strong labour force was identified as the top consideration for businesses looking to invest here.

The study shows southwestern Alberta is set to need more than 8,000 new workers over the next five years, with the largest increases coming in health care, arts, entertainment, recreation and educational services while service workers, general labourers and skilled trades workers are the most in-demand occupations.

“Labour supply has topped the list for site selectors for the past three years,” says Jim Willett, Chairperson, SouthGrow Regional Economic Development. “SouthGrow is proud to work with our partners to proactively address changes to our labour market so that Southern Alberta can continue to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world.”

There are opportunities for growth, as a growing mismatch was identified between the skills of people in the region and available jobs. Many jobseekers are considering employment outside their usual line of work, and employers report having trouble finding the right people for the jobs they are providing. In response to these findings, the partner organizations have formed four task teams that will work collaboratively to:

  • Develop labour market information to support decision making.
  • Pursue programs that increase talent retention and attract top talent.
  • Increase existing efforts to align training and skills with demand.
  • Create expanded work integrated learning opportunities.

The study is a collaboration between the SouthGrow Regional Initiative, Lethbridge College, Economic Development Lethbridge, Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance, Community Futures Alberta Southwest, Lethbridge Family Services, the Town of Taber and Vulcan County.

The study is jointly funded by the Government of Canada, Alberta’s Ministry of Labour and Immigration and the partner organizations.

(With files from Lethbridge College)