‘Getting to Work’ Report looks at local labour market challenges

The “Getting to Work: Investigating Labour Market Challenges in Saugeen Shores” six-month project is now complete. This project was in partnership with the University of Guelph, Bruce Power, and Mitacs, in order to research the specific labour market challenges in Saugeen Shores.

The report, authored by Ph.D. candidate Ashleigh Weeden, was presented to Council on Monday, January 11th. Highlights from the report include top challenges, and concerns from local employers and employees as well as recommendations for key stakeholders to create a one-window approach for employers and employees.

“Staff was very happy to work with Bruce Power and the University of Guelph on this project,” said Heather Hyde, Economic Development Officer.  “and that puts the labour market challenges in Saugeen Shores under a microscope and ties into the work being done by the County regionally.”

The report will be used by staff when developing strategic labour initiatives .

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“I was very impressed with the complexity of this report,” said Councilor Cheryl Grace, “and the recommendations brought forward not just for our Council but for leading organizations and businesses in our town.”

Grace pointed out that, in the report, there were issues set out that included the need for attainable housing, transportation and the tensions due to growth and the protection of environmental and cultural heritage during the extraordinary growth that is being experienced in Saugeen Shores.

She also said that some people had expressed concern about what the Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) and the Municipal Innovation Council were really doing for them. According to Grace, one of the comments was ‘is this just going to benefit those within the nuclear network or will it help all members of the community?’.  “I think it would be really good to make an effort and respond,” added Grace.  “Last month when the Council made its presentation it should be made clear they are working on an initiative for affordable housing that is going to be very helpful to us and they are also working on municipal transportation solutions as well.  There is also a need for us to be a more equitable and cohesive community.  There is a need to provide social as well as physical infrastructure.”

Grace said that she particularly liked the recommendation to collaborate with educational partners to encourage different career pathways for local youth and including succession planning for local businesses.  “Some of our long-treasured local businesses are closing and this makes a lot of sense to try and preserve those long-standing businesses which many people associate with our town’s character.  The affect of COVID has also exacerbated existing problems that will still be there after but the pandemic has exaggerated them, like the need for child care and how women have disproportionately been affected because of layoffs in the service sector and increased demands for available housing.”

Vice Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt said that throughout the report attainable housing was mentioned several times.  “Housing is at the top of the list with the Attainable Housing Task Force.  Sometimes, too, residents of Saugeen Township are left out of the process and I am glad to see it was included in the report.”

Councilor Dave Myette said that he thought was missing focus was on the entrepreneurial sector.  “The small business person who finds a niche should be promoted and young people with good ideas turn into our business people of the future.”

Mayor Luke Charbonneau said that one particular area of interest was in creating or promoting a local job portal specific to Saugeen Shores. “The County of Bruce has done some work on creating job portals across the county but I don’t know how well they are known or being used by people looking for work but the county is building a data base that perhaps we can connect to and build on.  This all spurred from a couple of years ago in Ottawa when we heard that there was a labour shortage issue but we couldn’t quantify it.  If we could help job providers connect with job seekers and mine some data to identify where the gaps are, then we could use that to help address the problem.”

Mayor Charbonneau said that, while the report was good and focused locally, it did not recognize that the labour shortage is part of a bigger problem that is Canada wide and is being driven by demographics.  “All these things can be implemented locally, such as attainable housing but you can’t invent people.  We will need the help of the Federal government.  We need immigrants and temporary ones to help fill the jobs in the interim.  We don’t seem to be able to fill the gaps due to external issues beyond our control and then we can go to the Province and Federal government and ask for the tools to help.”

Hyde said that there are challenges.  “People don’t know where to search for jobs and jobs are not necessarily being posted.  There is a lot of word-of-mouth and who you know and those new to the community do not have that social network when searching for a job.  Also, some larger organizations are not as transparent when it comes to jobs available and the skills that are needed.”  She also added that there will be a meeting with Bruce Power and others to look at possible solutions.

“We are fortunate to have these partners working together to conduct research and collect data for the Town of Saugeen Shores” says Mayor Luke Charbonneau, “the results of this study will help us understand the labour market challenges in our community.  This is a good first step.”