Canadian employers are faced with an increasing challenge to find skilled employees, but potential workers do not always have access to the skill training they require. This is the essence of the observation made by Tavia Grant and Richard Blackwell in a recent article in The Globe and Mail titled “The widening gap in Canada’s labour market.”
It is a perpetual cycle happening across the country that will pull companies and the people that fuel them further and further apart.
But, it does not have to continue this way.
There are groups – organizations and companies alike – championing the cause to narrow the gap. They know that while this is a national issue, no one-size-fits-all strategy will solve the problem. Let’s face it: the talent required in Toronto is not the same as the talent needed in remote areas. But there is incredible talent to be found no matter where you are. Actua is a champion that is inspiring that talent in more than 500 communities nationwide – in every province and territory across the country.
Actua is a not-for-profit organization among a dedicated pool of NGOs addressing the skilled labour shortage on a community by community basis. Our niche area is hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming designed to inspire and empower all youth, no matter their geographic location, ability, gender or socio economic situation. The success of our curriculum hinges on our understanding of and appreciation for the economic development opportunities in any given area.
For example, our Northern outreach program exposes young people to the many geology and mining development opportunities in their region. First, we teach kids to think critically and creatively and help them see the wonders of science that exists in their everyday lives. Then, we guide them as they apply these new skills to the exploration of the rocks and minerals they would find under their very own feet, in their community. They start to see themselves as geologists in the field or in a lab, and they begin to understand the opportunities that await them in the labour force. For many participants, this is ample inspiration to spark a new life path of developing skills that will be in high demand for years to come.
When we are invited into an area, we act as a connector. We take this role seriously. It is at the core of everything we do. We connect communities with local industries, children with mentors, and future innovators with veteran scientists. Through these connections, we encourage youth at an early age to play an integral role in shaping the future economic growth of their region.
Actua’s unique model of program delivery is especially effective at engaging underrepresented youth audiences – including Aboriginal youth, girls, and youth living in significantly challenged socio-economic conditions. Through this barrier-breaking work, we are helping young Canadians build skills and confidence. We are unleashing otherwise untapped sources of skilled labour and contributing to the development of a diverse and robust workforce.
Many of our success stories in this area are the result of our national partnership with GE Canada. GE is leading the charge, namely through its Remote Community Initiative, in shifting the way Canadians think of the labour potential in remote areas. Supporting Actua is one of its strategies. We partnered with GE to boost our content with industry-related elements and innovations that youth can really understand as they look ahead to career choices. The direct involvement of GE volunteers as mentors has further enabled us to make our programming dynamic and locally relevant.
Through this type of corporate connection, we educate, empower and inspire youth with the skills that matter - the skills that mean something to their community and to the industries in their region.
It is these skilled Canadians who will ultimately close the labour gap.