Employment Ontario a ‘one-stop shop’

Feds, province agree on $1 billion in employment training services

In an ever-tightening labour market, finding the right people with the right skills is becoming increasingly difficult. A new training agreement between Ottawa and Ontario hopes to ease these problems by combining government-sponsored training and employment programs.

The Canada-Ontario Labour Market Development Agreement, which came into effect on Jan. 1, saw seven training and employment programs, including funding and staff, transferred from the federal government to the province.

Combining more than $500 million of federal programs for people receiving employment insurance or eligible for EI-funded programs with $360 million of existing Ontario programs will provide employers and jobseekers with a one-stop shop for training and employment programs, said Amy Terrill, director of communications for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

“Other jurisdictions (Australia and Germany) have used that (model) as one very effective strategy to increase the number of skilled workers in their locations and to do a better job of matching workers to companies that are looking for them,” she said.

The agreement has resulted in the creation of Employment Ontario, a network of training, apprenticeship and labour market services within the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

“Employment Ontario will now unite our community-based network of employers and training partners with the federal government’s support programs for people re-entering the workforce,” said Tania Blazina, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. “The new network will focus on meeting local needs so that employers can find the skilled workers they need in their area and people can pursue the training and learning they need to fully participate in building their community.”

Susan Hawkins, manager of recruitment and training management for RBC, greater Toronto region, sees the agreement as a means of supporting even more jobseekers and helping them find the right jobs.

“The additional funding and programs and support are just going to open more doors for more people,” said Hawkins.

Over the past few years, Hawkins has worked with community agencies in Toronto, including ACCES, which provides Canadian newcomers with job counselling and job placement, and Job Start, which helps adults and youth as well as newcomers find and keep jobs. She has participated in resumé writing workshops and interview preparation courses. She also keeps the agencies informed about the positions available at RBC. That kind of relationship ensures the agencies provide Hawkins with the best possible candidates.

The way that RBC is growing, Hawkins will be relying more and more on these agencies to find the right people. RBC opened eight new branches in the Toronto area last year and plans to open 20 more this year. That’s 20 branches Hawkins needs to staff.

The extra support and funding that employment training agencies will receive under the federal-provincial agreement means there will be more qualified people from which she can draw, she said.

“It makes my job much easier,” said Hawkins.

Financial institutions aren’t the only employers facing a labour crunch. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has identified the skills shortage as one of the greatest challenges facing the province’s economy over the next few decades. In the manufacturing sector alone, there is an expected shortage of 100,000 workers in 15 years.

“It has a huge impact on companies that are trying to meet targets and grow companies, but it also has a resulting impact on our economy and our ability to compete on a global stage. Our competitiveness as a province is at risk if we don’t address the skill shortage immediately,” said Terrill. “The skills shortage applies to virtually every sector in Ontario.”

While the new agreement didn’t include any additional programs for apprenticeships, the existing provincial programs that support apprentices, apprenticeship creation and training will fall under Employment Ontario’s purview.

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