On Oct. 6, Perth—Wellington Member of Parliament John Nater submitted some Thanksgiving reading to the ministers of Finance, Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, and Small Business and Tourism. It came in the form of a report on his 2016 Summer Jobs Tour, which included 10 roundtable discussions across Perth—Wellington on the issues of the Canada Summer Jobs program and local economic conditions.
“The report shares the concerns and recommendations of employees, small business owners, municipal councillors, and community group representatives who gathered during MP Nater’s roundtable discussions,” reads a press release submitted by Nater’s office. “The report covers a wide variety of topics including: labour shortages in specific industries, the strengths and weaknesses of the 2016 Canada Summer Jobs program, transportation and infrastructure, the aging workforce, and changes and developments in the agricultural sector.”
According to the release, Nater was “very pleased with the success” of the Jobs Tour, which passed through St. Marys on July 18. However, he noted that “there are many concerns about the future of our small communities in Perth—Wellington. The Federal Government must make decisions which will allow our small businesses to prosper by addressing the issues raised in this report. I expect the Ministers to consider this information and these ideas when drafting the 2017 Budget, making policy decisions, and modifying federal programs in the future.”
The report is entitled “Briefing on the Canada Summer Jobs program and the status of the economy in Perth—Wellington,” and can be viewed in full by clicking the link below the press release at johnnater.ca/m-p-nater-submits-jobs-tour-report-to-government-ministers.
The Department of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour’s Canada Summer Jobs Program is “important, successful, and much needed,” in this area, Nater writes, before noting that “there are weaknesses, and improvements to the program are necessary.”
Other focuses of the report are that “access to vital skills training in both the workforce and the education system is crucial but is currently lacking,” and that “labour shortages in smaller communities are significant due to difficulties in attracting and retaining families.”
Nater cites concerns about the aging workforce in Perth County as a “recurring concern throughout the Jobs Tour.” Almost one-third of Perth County workers are over age 55, “while only 20 percent of the workforce is under 25,” he wrote.
181 positions were created across the riding through the Canada Summer Jobs Program, thanks to 95 projects being approved for funding. Recommendations he made to improve the program included permitting “more flexibility in the allocation of hours,” so an organization could hire two students for eight weeks each or one student for 16 weeks, based on the employer’s needs and the applicant’s availability. He also said employers should be “aware of what percentage of student salaries they will be expected to cover and the exact amount the federal government will provide.”
According to Nater’s report, “over 50 percent of employers in Perth County hired outside of the county due to a lack of qualified employees,” with one of the main reasons why being that applicants “did not meet qualifications such as education level or credentials.”
Recommendations the M.P. made on this front included that, “Government training and loan programs should be more flexible to accommodate the changing skills training needs in Canada’s economy,” and that “There should be a greater emphasis on ‘soft skills’ in all high school career classes.”
The last topic Nater tackled was the issue of labour shortages. “Labour shortage in Perth-Wellington is of great concern to employers across my riding,” he wrote, pointing out that the unemployment rate is 5.3 percent. He states that while 71 percent of manufacturing sector employers planned to hire in 2016, 63 percent of them “found it hard to fill various positions.”
He calls the inability of rural communities to retain and attract youth “at the top of this list,” of reasons for the “severe labour shortage in Perth—Wellington.” Causes for the negative flow of young workers, based on what he heard around the riding, include students opting not to return to their home communities after relocating for post-secondary education, the growing number of older workers choosing not to retire at 65, and higher salaries available elsewhere.
“It was recommended throughout the roundtable discussions that the government examine ways to assist young families in purchasing their first home,” he said, adding that “the growth of many rural communities in Perth—Wellington, and by extension the availability of workers, has been hampered by a lack of transportation infrastructure options and outdated wastewater and waste management facilities.”
Nater heard from municipal officials across the riding that, without these investments, there can be no new housing developments.
The report described these and Nater’s other recommendations as “a first step in creating an environment for both community and economic growth.” The M.P. wrote that he looked forward to working with the ministers’ departments “to meet these goals and develop new ones.”