The labour market is complex. While data can help identify trends in the labour market, such as what sectors are hiring or the impact of changing demographics on the availability of workers, it can’t identify the true impact of what is happening on the front line of today’s workforce. To dig deeper and to more broadly understand the trends, opportunities and threats facing a community’s labour market, spaces need to be created where community conversations can occur.
At the Labour Market Group of Lanark-Renfrew, we believe strongly that annual community consultations are needed to fully understand what’s happening in the local labour market. In the Fall of 2023, we held four community consultations. Three of them were offered in person (Arnprior, Perth and Pembroke) and a fourth session was facilitated virtually. More than 60 individuals participated, representing a wide spectrum of sectors from manufacturing to health care.
What we learned was that many employers were still struggling to both recruit and retain employees, but we also heard about creative solutions and pilot projects that were being driven by a new reality that both Renfrew and Lanark Counties are running out of workers. With both counties aging, there is a shortage of working-age people to fill vacancies, and so employers are opening up doors that were previously closed in their efforts to secure a workforce.
We heard from employers who were aggressively hiring foreign workers, we witnessed the use of robots to fill traditional jobs like cleaners and waiters, we learned about flexible parent scheduling to address shortages of daycare spaces and we listened as employers talked about how they were investing more in mental health services to support their employees.
Our focus was on four key themes: Employee recruitment, employee retention, the need for education and training within organizations and the impact of community factors that were making it more difficult for job seekers to accept some jobs. These factors included the rising cost of inflation, a lack of affordable housing, and challenges for parents to secure daycare. We even heard about the impact the shortage of bus drivers was having on families, curtailing the ability for some parents to take positions that didn’t afford them the ability to work from home.
The conversations were rich at our community consultations. They have helped us work with our community partners to develop strategies and an action plan to chip away at some of the short- term and long-term issues that are affecting our region’s prospects for a healthy labour market. Solving these issues takes time and there are many factors that will contribute to whether we are successful, but it is clear that the labour market warrants the attention of all community stakeholders.
We have included a summary of the notes that we captured during our consultations. By sharing them, we hope to add additional context to our Local Labour Market Planning process and the feedback that was provided from those who attended the sessions.
Click here to download the full report (65 KB Word Doc)