Conference looks at barriers to employment

If one thing the recent conference at Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre, titled ‘Let’s Talk: Labour Shortage’ brought to the fore was the fact that an acute labour shortage is a problem that is not only local but regional, provincial and national.

 Panel: (L-R) Gemma Mendez-Smith, Pat Jilesen, Ashleigh Weeden & Ryan Gibson

Almost 80 people attended the conference including Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb, municipal officials and staff and several local business owners.

In a region where unemployment is the lowest in Ontario at 3.7 per cent, and while a labour shortage is being viewed as critical, the other two areas of major concerns raised are the lack of affordable housing and public transit.  In fact, housing in general is at a shortage, particularly for those in the service industry.  Combine the lack of housing and public transit and it adds up to those who cannot live and work in the same community.

According to some service industry business owners, they cannot keep staff when they have no place to live and, if they live outside of the urban settlement area, there is no public transit to get to work.

A panel of four who attempted to field questions with answers included Gemma Mendez- Smith (Executive Director of the Four County Labour Market Planning Board), Pat Jilesen (Ontario Federation of Agriculture Director) Ashleigh Weeden and Ryan Gibson (University of Guelph).

Among some of the solutions offered by the panel were to create relocation programs for new Canadians,  encourage local youth to focus on skills that are in demand, develop initiatives to attract and retain workers, develop affordable housing options and develop high-speed broadband internet to attract industry.

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau said that tiers of government have to work together on addressing the issues that create barriers to employment.