Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) regional event in London was part of a four-part series for economic development professionals that took place on September 20th. This event was a great opportunity to meet colleagues and share economic development solutions.
Session 1: Share & Discover Talent Recruitment Best Practices presenter Justin Falconer (CEO of Workforce Windsor Essex) and Robert Collins (Director, Workforce Development) shared the Workforce toolkit that is used to collect data on the employment needs of communities. There was great discussion around effective hiring approaches to retain and grow the workforce.
Session 2: A Care Economy Hat Trick – Child Care, Employment and Community Growth – Speakers included Audrey Ansell, Director of Community Attraction & Promotion for Chatham-Kent, Kelly Emery, Director of Children’s Services, Early On and Recreation for Chatham-Kent, Matt Keech, Program Manager, Employment and Social Services for Chatham-Kent and Andrea Carmona, Manager, Public Affairs Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC).
In this session we learned how Chatham-Kent has addressed workforce capacity challenges, employment needs and child education. There is a crisis in the declining ECE (Early Childhood Education) workforce, with workers facing caretaker fatigue and low wages. The region has been forced to close existing childcare centres due to ECE staff shortages. There is currently a 1400 child waitlist and the impact of the ECE workforce crisis on families seeking childcare is critical for employees who must ‘return to work’ in person. Specifically affecting women’s return to the workforce as they are often the caretakers, and this situation may affect their professional development when childcare is not an option. Chatham-Kent has worked with Ontario Works to train individuals as “ECE assistants” and upon completion of the program participants are matched with employers. Without sustainable and accessible childcare services, economic recovery will be hindered by the lack of workers which could disproportionately push women out of the workforce.
Session 3: Agri-Food Investment – Panelists included Kapil Lakhotia, CEO at London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), James Smith, Culinary Educator & Food Business Development, Stephanie Slaman, Economic Development Officer, City of Guelph, Greg Merlihan, OMAFRA’s Attraction Consultant, Joe Dales, President of Agriculture and Food Innovation, RH Accelerator.
The session discussed the Agri-food sector’s current challenges. There is a need for new talent and recruiting new graduates was one of the solutions discussed. The panelists highlighted that greater financial investments for emerging technologies and approaches are essential but may be considered a higher risk for investors.
Session 4: Building Your Local Supply Chain, Current and Future Trends of FDI – Speakers included Stephen MacKenzie, CEO of Invest Windsor Essex, Curtis Tighe, Manager of EcDev and Tourism for the Town of Ingersoll, Rob Creamer Executive Vice-President for Research FDI. The session provided information on how supply chains are changing, and which key Ontario industries are most affected by these changes, for example:
- Energy providing infrastructure
- Auto part suppliers
- Transportation (self-driving vehicles)
The speakers discussed how electric vehicle supply chain differs to the traditional automotive supply chain by having to change equipment and train (or hire) workers in the field to the new mechanical systems. Economic developers can use this opportunity of shortening supply chains or reshoring to generate more interest in their community. This session also discussed how electric vehicles will affect local workforces beyond factory workers as communities will have to evaluate and improve their existing infrastructure to meet the needs of electric vehicles (i.e., power grids, charging stations…)
The next EDCO Regional event will be held in Gananoque on November 2nd, 2022. Visit EDCOs website for details.
Written by: Serena Viola, Agriculture & Rural Economic Development Advisor