News

Project's goal to close Niagara skills gap

By Ray Spiteri, Niagara Falls Review

A first-of-its-kind project is being launched in Niagara to try to close the skills gap in the region.

Linking Niagara will be overseen by a steering committee consisting of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, Niagara Workforce Planning Board, YMCA Employment & Immigrant Services, Rel8ed.to, Business Jumpstart, the Niagara Community Observatory and Niagara Connects.

The project is funded by the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation, with the support of Ryerson University and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

Employers in Ontario identify access to a talented workforce as their number-one challenge, yet despite this fact, there are still thousands of job-seekers in Niagara who are not finding roles, according to a press release issued Monday by the chamber.

Linking Niagara aims to bring the two together, building the connections and tools that will help businesses recruit talent, job-seekers to find available jobs, and employment service providers to connect their clients with local employers.

The program will raise awareness of the various support programs, initiatives, and funds available to local employers. A key challenge for employers is not a lack of programs to assist with hiring, but a lack of awareness of them, said the release.

Linking Niagara will build that awareness.

The project’s co-ordinators will work throughout Niagara running workshops, info sessions, and information technology tools to make connections and help employers access key hiring resources.

The project will particularly focus on smaller enterprises who do not have dedicated human resources staff, and face challenges recruiting and expanding their business.

The long-term goals of this project will be to see decreased unemployment, faster economic growth, and more job opportunities, particularly among the long-term unemployed, persons with disabilities, and equity-seeking groups.

The program will try to create a self-sustaining network and body of knowledge between employers, job-seekers, and employment service providers in Niagara.

“Employers have repeatedly said that their biggest problem right now is finding talent. It was one of the key takeaways of the 2016 Niagara Economic Summit,” said Mishka Balsom, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.

“We’re pleased to be leading this program in response, and to take decisive action that will close the skills gap and help businesses here in Niagara.”

As Niagara’s leading workforce research organization, the Niagara Workforce Planning Board is “very aware of Niagara’s workforce challenges,” said the board’s CEO Mario De Divitiis.

“Linking Niagara is the means by which we can solve that problem for ourselves.”

Deanna D’Elia, director of employment and newcomer services for YMCA of Niagara, said the project will help the agency and other employment-service providers with “more tools and bigger networks so that we can reach even more of the people we need to.”

“This project is a new and valuable resource for everyone in Niagara who is trying to connect job seekers with employers, to help people find work, and to help employers recruit talent.” 

rspiteri@postmedia.com