A 2010 report, “People Without Jobs. Jobs Without People”, highlights concerning trends in the Ontario labour market; noting that we will have both a labour and skills storage by 2031. It also highlights the increased levels of unemployment experienced by the province in the wake of the 2008 recession.
But Waterloo Region’s unemployment rate is improving, right? The information presented in “A Snapshot in Time: The Root Causes of Crime in Waterloo Region” indeed shows the improvement we are observing in Waterloo Region’s labour market (p.9). However, the overall unemployment rate masks some concerning trends for specific segments of our workforce. Unemployment for youth, new Canadians, displaced manufacturing workers, and older workers has remained high despite the overall improvement in local economic conditions.
These structural changes present real challenges to the economic and social challenges our community will face over the next twenty years, including:
- Youth that experience delays in starting careers, and the associated reduction in potential lifetime earnings. As well as the pressure many employers will face when there are insufficient qualified people to fill roles as baby boomers retire.
- New Canadians that migrate to Ontario with professional educations and experiences, who are unable to find work commensurate with their qualifications. As well as employers that cannot access the diverse skilled labour needed to make their businesses globally competitive.
- Displaced manufacturing workers that have not been afforded the continuous learning opportunities in previous jobs and find their skills out-of-date. As well as employers that cannot access their maturity, experience, and transferable skills.
- Experienced Workers (those who are 55+) that find themselves without the skills to compete with a new highly educated workforce and find retirement savings in jeopardy, as well as employers that lose access to candidates that still have ten years of work left, and maturity and skill to mentor the next generation of worker.
As can be seen, these structural changes present potential long term impacts on our local economy and social support structures. With these new challenges come the potential to see increased: poverty, mental health challenges, heath impacts, and as outlined in “The Root Causes of Crime in Waterloo” – an increase in crime.
While these challenges can seem overwhelming, there are many local organizations implementing innovative ways of addressing these employment challenges. The following programs are examples of the specific programs Lutherwood has been working with in Waterloo Region and Guelph:
- Transitioning In New Times: Funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Lutherwood has been operating a demand-side focused employment program. The intent of the program is to more effectively bridge the gap between people experiencing increased unemployment and employers struggling to find qualified candidates for open positions. The program develops training to address specific industry needs, and work to support candidates into these roles. The program has seen meaningful success, and there are provincial replication efforts underway.
- Mentorship for Internationally Trained Professionals: Recently Lutherwood began a Mentorship program for Internally Trained Professionals in the Guelph area, a similar program is run by the YMCA in Waterloo Region. The intent of the program is to connect professional newcomers with mentors in their field of expertise, giving them connection to establish themselves in careers commensurate with their education and experience. A recent Maytree Foundation report shows that mentorship significantly increases entry into professional careers for new comers.
- Targeted Initiative for Older Workers (TIOW): Through this program for experienced workers (those that are older than 55) individuals get employment skill development, skills upgrading, employment coaching, and structured work placements. Through this targeted program these workers are able to upgrade and refresh bring valuable experience, maturity, and skill to employers.
While each of these programs takes a different approach to addressing persistent unemployment in our community, one thing is constant; the intervention is scoped to the needs of the population being served. This approach ensures the effectiveness of the program to address specific needs. Over the next several years it will be important that we continue to seek new approaches to address unemployment being experienced by youth, experienced workers, new Canadians, and those displaced from the manufacturing sector. These approaches should be targeted to the populations being served, should engage each level of government and most importantly engage area employers.
Author: Aaron Stauch is a Program Manager at Lutherwood with experience in both the employment and mental health sectors.