Over the past few years the term “skills mismatch” has been coined as the preeminent challenge within our workforce. Essentially defined as "the emerging generations of the workforce and the current needs of employers are not in alignment". At first this term was more often applied to the skilled trades, but it has since spilled over to be a generalization.
Many of our member businesses express challenges in finding the right fit workforce for their needs. In a recent Ontario Chamber of Commerce report called the "Ontario Economic Report", the Business Confidence Survey revealed that 75% of respondents identified recruiting and retaining talent as most crucial to their business competitiveness.
So, we identified a problem - what are the possible solutions? One solution considered by many in government is engaging students before they enter the workforce through experiential learning opportunities. We have seen many recent budgets dedicating tax
dollars toward this.
Our friends at the Workforce Development Board/Local Employment Planning Council (WDB/LEPC) have been doing research on this topic and have just released a report titled "Experiential Learning: Building Blocks for Employers Success”.
Experiential learning is defined by the Ontario Ministry of Education as “learning beyond the classroom”. The ministry goes on to define that this can happen in a number of ways; understanding more about the industries they may want to pursue in the future; exposure to career options in industries they may not have known about or even considered; developing essential workplace skills; seeing how their in-class learning can be applied in the workplace; and, the ability to make more informed decisions about their education and career path so they make a successful transition into the job market.
All of this requires employer engagement. So, how can and do employers engage with students in a meaningful manner? This is the focus of the report by WDB/LEPC. The document includes four success stories from local employers in the fields of agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing and tourism. Also included in the report are seven handy tips for employers to consider before they enter the world of experiential learning.
Here are those tips:
1. Plan ahead
Consider where in the office or building the individual will be able to spend their time and who will be the primary point of contact. Some employers choose to pair students and job seekers with more senior staff who are able to provide mentorship and guidance
throughout the placement. Be sure you have enough work planned for the individual to stay busy for the duration of the placement and consider a variety of ways they may be able to add value to the daily operations or strategic priorities.
2. Find the right fit
Give some thought to the type of experiential learning opportunity that is most suited to your organization. For some workplaces, hosting a field placement might be impractical or logistically challenging as a result of safety or liability concerns, whereas engaging in a long-term research project could be very beneficial to the business. Before making a
commitment, consult with local partners and placement coordinators for advice and input on the right direction to take.
3. Reflect on timing
Timing is another key component to providing successful, mutually beneficial learning opportunities. Some organizations prefer to only offer internships that are a minimum of four months to provide enough time for the person to make beneficial contributions. Many stakeholders noted that providing short-term placements is sometimes less beneficial.
4. Be open-minded, but remain business oriented
Though this report is focused on the positive outcomes and benefits, it is equally important to acknowledge that not every learning opportunity will result in mutual benefits. It is recommended that employers enter into these experiences with an open mind and a committed attitude. However, at the end of the day, employers should also remain practical and business oriented and have a strategy in place if the placement does not go as planned.
5. Maintain ongoing dialogue and communication
Open communication between all parties involved in experiential learning is vital to the success of not only the placement, but also to the development of long-term
partnerships and the ability to resolve issues as they arise. The strength of the relationship between an employer, a faculty and its educators, and a student is indicative to the outcome of the experiential learning opportunity.
6. Document best practices and lessons learned
Following the conclusion of the experiential learning opportunity, reflect on what worked well and potential areas for improvement. Consider developing a manual that documents each of the steps involved with the orientation and onboarding of the student or job seeker. Next time your organization hosts a student, you can refer to the manual for guidance and direction. Another way to involve the student or job seeker is to have them contribute to the manual.
7. Leverage community partnerships & opportunities for coordination
A recommendation that clearly resonates with each and every stakeholder in experiential learning is to coordinate outreach efforts with employers. Employer
engagement that is done in isolation often results in duplicated efforts and poor uptake. Some institutions have formed experiential learning working groups or committees to ensure they are coordinating their outreach efforts. This is a strategy that will drastically reduce the risk of duplication and negative experiences for community partners.
The issue of recruiting and retaining talent has been identified by our Peterborough Chamber membership as a particular area of need. So, the Peterborough Chamber will continue to find ways to inform and put knowledge into the hands of members to help them in this space.
With the 2019 Federal budget coming down on Tuesday and the recent announcement that the provincial budget will be released on April 11th we thought it worth a look back at our pre-budget requests.
The Chamber represents about 900 members in the city and county of Peterborough. These members employ approximately 25, 000 residents. We had the unique opportunity to bring together our membership for roundtable sessions at the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce on November 16th, 2018 (federal), January 25th and February 7th (provincial). From those sessions, it’s clear that there are number areas with business impact.
Federally, members participating in the roundtable discussed:
At the provincial roundtables the following issues were mentioned by our members.
Among them is the request from our not-for profit members to have the flexibility to be innovative in their programming by having budget buckets instead of line by line reporting. This would afford them the ability to future plan effectively.
Many of our employers spoke to the need for skilled and unskilled labour to fill their job openings in
core Peterborough industries such as agriculture and construction.
Suggestions from the group included more high school specialist programs, reaching students at an earlier age to introduce them to different career paths and retraining opportunities that are flexible enough to work for the employee and the employer.
Generally, it was expressed that broadband should be a focus to connect communities and improve business competitiveness.
There was agreement to bring the marginal tax rate below 50% to leave more money in the pockets of Ontarians.
Government & Legislative Compliance
Participants at both roundtables expressed concern with the number of government touchpoints they must experience and encouraged goal-setting to reduce that number for businesses and not-for-profits. Legislative compliance has a cost and a productivity toll, particularly on smaller operations.
On the issue of improving government accountability, there was a desire to see less rebranding of government ministries and programs, and the suggestion that an effective navigation or concierge service for business and not-for profit organizations would improve communication between the government and its constituents.
Peterborough Chamber Policy Resolutions
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has approved two policy positions for our advocacy program. Both are focussed on the apprenticeship framework by encouraging more flexibility of ratios, particularly for businesses in smaller urban and rural centres, and keeping two parts of the Ontario College of Trades as that arms-length body is dissolved.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce pre-budget submission includes a request from the Peterborough and Kingston Chambers of Commerce to increase the heads and bed levy on public institutions and then tie it to the Consumer Price Index. Doing so would help our municipalities achieve a more realistic return on providing services, which in turn would help the businesses and residents of impacted communities.
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce recognizes that Ontario has debt and deficit challenges and that focussed leadership through this time will be crucial to our overall competitiveness.
The federal budget will be released on March 19th and the provincial budget on April 11th.
For the fourth year in a row, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce Power Hour event was a great success. The event features the local MP, MPP, Warden and Mayor having a frank and open conversation and answering the questions of the Chamber membership.
Joining us on stage this year were MPP Dave Smith, Warden J. Murray Jones, and Mayor Diane Therrien. MP Maryam Monsef was unable to attend because she was part of a mini cabinet shuffle that saw international development added to her portfolio.
The political leaders were asked almost 20 questions in the one hour time frame.
“The number of topics covered ranged from economic development, to post-secondary education, health care, WSIB, passenger rail and air service, to affordable housing,” said Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “I think the opportunity to get our elected leaders on stage, taking questions on any and all topics is very important. And to have a record number of elected City and County Councillors, administrators and a full house on hand was also great to see.”
To get the conversation started we asked each what where their top three issues to address in the
MPP Smith identified:
Warden Jones highlighted:
Mayor Therrien spoke about:
This year’s Power Hour had its fair share of interesting moments. The availability of employment lands loomed large with a question around whether or not the city, county and townships could reach agreement on a plan for expanding employment lands either through a servicing agreement, annexation or other means.
“I thought having MPP Dave Smith and Mayor Therrien talking openly about amalgamation was not only interesting but very important,” reflected Harrison. “With the Province in the middle of a Regional Municipal Review with recommendations expected on the efficiency of those multi-tier structures, it’s important that these conversations be held openly and in good faith. As Warden Jones pointed out, “from 30,000 feet in the air we are just a little dot, with no man-made boundaries, so let’s consider ourselves as one”. Wise advice.”
The Warden emphasized the need for more investment in internet connectivity and referenced the cell gap analysis being completed by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network. “For many businesses in the County,” he said, "a lot of our economic development depends on improved connectivity.”
MPP Smith spoke about his assignment to develop a plan to encourage more travel to Ontario Parks, while Mayor Therrien said that they are looking to speak with the province about completing the south end of the Parkway from Clonsilla to Sherbrooke. The province currently has a ministerial order on the project that is holding back the City’s ability to complete even a portion of the project. But, she said, “Even if we were to get the go ahead, construction is still at least five years out.”
Next up on the political docket is the release of the provincial and federal budgets. Both are expected in the next two or three weeks with the federal budget confirmed for March 19th.
By: Tiffany Arcari, Member Services, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce
I recently read an article in the New York Times written by Jolie Kerr. It was a summary of a conversation
with NPR host Terry Gross on how to talk to people. This is a critical skill for business people, so here are a few of her insights.