February 3, 2022

Tackling long-term unemployment in Alberta: Business leaders recommend actions to help displaced Albertans back into the workforce

New report from the Business Council of Alberta seeks to address Alberta’s persistent long-term unemployment challenge

CALGARY, ALBERTA—Today, the Business Council of Alberta releases a new report to tackle one of Alberta’s more troubling and persistent challenges: long-term unemployment. The report, entitled Clearing a Path: Helping Displaced Albertans Re-enter the Workforce, is the final report from the Council’s Task Force on Long-Term Unemployment & Workforce Transition (the Task Force) and proposes a series of actions and recommendations for businesses, governments, and post-secondary institutions to help displaced Albertans re-enter the workforce and support them to succeed in the future of work.

“While employment is up recently, the reality is Alberta still has one of the highest long-term unemployment rates in Canada, with thousands of Albertans still unable to find work, many for more than one year,” says Becky Penrice, Task Force Chair and Executive Vice President, Corporate Services, ATCO. “As jobs change due to automation, technology, artificial intelligence, and transformations of traditional sectors, if we don’t take action, this problem is likely to get worse—and our broader economic and social outcomes will decline.”

This report represents an action plan for business and post-secondary leaders as well as policymakers and includes key recommendations such as:

  • Reforming the federal EI program by shifting its focus towards supporting individuals who use their period of unemployment to upgrade their skills, even potentially increasing the duration and level of EI benefits for individuals who pursue training programs while unemployed;
  • Increasing the annual federal contribution to the Workforce Development Agreement by $30 million and earmarking 50% to support training for unemployed Albertans under the Canada-Alberta Job Grant (CAJG) and the other 50% to expand the program so that employees facing termination are eligible for 100% of government-funded training support in the same way as individuals who are unemployed; and
  • Transitioning the Alberta Jobs Now program to a permanent wage-subsidy program, focused on helping the long-term unemployed gain jobs and supporting employers who hire unemployed Albertans from groups experiencing additional barriers to re-entry, including women, Indigenous People, people living with disabilities, and newcomers, among others.

“Unemployment doesn’t just impact one part of a person or one part of their life; unemployment impacts them holistically—mentally, emotionally, financially,” says Adam Legge, President, Business Council of Alberta. “Our work found that this is an issue that won’t simply resolve itself even as the economy improves. To help Albertans re-enter the workforce and set them up for success, and to ensure that businesses can access the talent they need to grow and innovate, we need a people-focused and coordinated approach between businesses, governments, and educators.”

The report also notes that, despite high and persistent long-term unemployment, businesses report having difficulty finding the workers they need. In late 2021 in Alberta, there were 182,000 people who wanted jobs, and 97,000 jobs that wanted people. This suggests a mismatch between the skills Albertans have and those needed in the workforce.

With major evolutions in technology and energy on the horizon, it will be vital to ensure that Albertans have the right skills to succeed in the future. The Task Force includes recommendations to improve skills training programs as well as funding for those programs.

“All Albertans deserve access to meaningful employment that enables them to live a life that they aspire to,” Mary Beth Green, Task Force member and Director, Human Resources, Fort McKay Group of Companies. “They also deserve access to the training they need to take their skills to the next level, to innovate, grow, adapt, and bring those aspirations to life in the face of our economic challenges.”  

This report is the second release in a two-part series from the Task Force. The first paper—Silent Crisis: Trends and Challenges Facing Alberta’s Displaced Workers—digs into Alberta’s sticky long-term unemployment challenge and the global forces that are shifting the world of work.

The final report is available here:

Task Force Members
  • Becky Penrice (Chair), Executive Vice President, Corporate Services, ATCO
  • Jane Fedoretz, Executive Vice President, People, Talent and Transformation, TransAlta
  • Mark Kluchky, Vice President, People, AltaML
  • Mary Beth Green, Director, Human Resources, Fort McKay Group of Companies
  • Murray Cunningham, President & Chief Executive Officer, Scott Builders


About the Business Council of Alberta. The Business Council of Alberta is a non-partisan, for-purpose organization dedicated to building a better Alberta within a more dynamic Canada. Composed of the chief executives and leading entrepreneurs of the province’s largest enterprises, Council members are proud to represent the majority of Alberta’s private sector investment, job creation, exports, and research and development. The Council is committed to working with leaders and stakeholders across Alberta and Canada in proposing bold and innovative public policy solutions and initiatives that will make life better for Albertans.

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