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An Appetite to Get to Work: Jackman-Atkinson

August 21, 2016 7:45 AM | Columns

By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, myWestman


(Farmer performing a safety check image via Shutterstock)

NEEPAWA, Man. — Any given week, when you open the paper, you will see the same thing — help wanted ads. Some weeks there are lots, some weeks there are less, but every week, local businesses are looking to hire staff to help them meet today’s needs and grow for tomorrow’s.

For our Neepawa papers, every help wanted ad crosses my desk at least once and what might be unexpected, is the variety. Not surprisingly, this time of year, there are many ads from employers looking for harvest help, but there are also senior management jobs in a variety of fields. A browse through the pages speaks to the variety of business operations in the area.

Being able to keep all of these jobs filled is vital to the success of our area. Without workers, businesses at best stay stagnant and at worst regress and that means less prosperity for the region as a whole.

One important way of keeping our region’s businesses staffed is by ensuring that there are qualified employees available. For many jobs, that means ensuring that post-secondary training is not just available, but is also teaching the right skills.

When business owners are looking at the challenges they face, staffing issues are always a major area of concern. In Brandon, their Chamber of Commerce’s most recent business climate survey found that labour force issues were the single greatest challenge affecting businesses in the community. I suspect it’s top of mind for most businesses elsewhere in Westman too.

Over the last two weeks, the provincial government has been hosting regional roundtables to discuss employment and skills-training programs. In addition to ensuring employers and educational institutions are on the same page, the goal is also to help shape future labour market transfer agreements. These are the agreements through which the federal government provides funding for provincial and territorial governments to help those most in need of employment-skills help: unemployed people who aren’t eligible for EI benefits and those who are employed, but who don’t have a high school diploma or have low levels of literacy.

Ian Wishart, the provincial minister of Education and Training, said that at the Brandon meeting, stakeholders emphasized the need for greater program flexibility and stronger links between skills training and employers. One idea discussed was targeted, train-to-hire initiatives for sectors where demand for employees is especially high.

The federal government provides about $76 million to the Manitoba government for employment and skills training. The provincial government also allocates a portion of its budget to labour market activities, such as apprenticeship training, programming for employers to meet workforce needs, work experience for youth, labour market integration programming for immigrants, supports for people with disabilities, entrepreneurship, as well as learning and literacy, among others. This funding represents a great opportunity to build our province as a whole, by helping Manitobans find gainful employment, helping local businesses grow.

Making sure that this money is providing the largest benefit is important, especially so for small businesses. Smaller businesses don’t have the resources to offer extensive in-house training for employees, they need employees who know something about the job they are stepping into. According to Statistics Canada data from 2015, 97.6 per cent of Manitoba’s businesses are small, having less than 100 employees.

The great thing about the round tables was that they brought businesses and post-secondary institutions together to talk about how best to meet each others’ needs. Ultimately, both sectors want the same thing, students who are well trained and ready to graduate into the work force. That’s something we as Manitobans also want.