If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown anything, it’s how essential skilled trades and technology jobs are and the critical role they play in generating economic activity, says Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Ontario.
“This pandemic has shown what some of those essential jobs and skills are, why we need to have these jobs filled to meet our infrastructure needs, our manufacturing needs,” explained Howcroft. “What people may think now about some of these skilled workers might be different than what they thought three or four months ago, especially when you realize what is needed to keep not just the economy going but the health and safety systems, food systems, logistics and transportation.”
Skills Ontario held a Virtual Skills Summit June 30 to provide a strategy for a skills-based recovery. Participants heard from a variety of speakers on what business roadmaps for successful emergence from COVID-19 will look like, what skills are in high demand now and for the future and how to find and keep top talent, indicates a release.
As the province begins to come out of lockdown and open back up, it is important for all levels of government and stakeholders to work together to train, recruit and support the development of young people to provide them with rewarding careers and to address the province’s shortage of skilled workers, Howcroft explained.
“We’ve known for a long time that we are suffering from skills shortages,” he said.
“We have to do a better job of promoting what those opportunities are to young people. What we are trying to do now is take advantage of this new look at what skilled trades are, make sure we are leveraging it and that we are doing more to engage businesses, young people and stakeholders in this.”
Skills Ontario is using an economics policy firm to do an environmental scan to create a database of all groups engaged in skills promotion, skills development and skills delivery.
“We want to do a better job of co-ordination, collaboration and co-operation and the best way to do that is to make sure that we are aware of what everybody is doing so that we can be a conduit to link people and processes,” said Howcroft.
“We had planned on this for a while but with the pandemic it’s even more pressing right now…as we try and move forward out of the terrible economic lows to which we have fallen. We need to move forward and make sure we have the skills that we need in the short, medium and long-term.”
As part of its outreach initiatives, Skills Ontario will have a team devoted to engaging with organizations and building relationships.
“We’re going to have a half dozen outreach co-ordinators that are trying to tie these events, these delivery opportunities regionally together and tie that in provincially,” said Howcroft.
“We’ll also continue to promote it in schools but maybe try and do more to make linkages between businesses and schools. This was predicated on normal times so we’re right now having to govern ourselves according to restrictions and everything is virtual and remote. We do look forward to when we can start doing at least some in person or hybrid events.”
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