Ontario centre aims to close job market's 'information gap'
There's often talk of a 'skills gap,' but a new initiative believes high unemployment is about a lack of communication.
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If you’re having trouble finding a job in Ontario, it may be a case of missed connections.
A new research initiative led by Ryerson University is studying how to “recalibrate” the provincial job market so employers can more easily find potential employees.
“There’s not necessarily a skills gap in Ontario, but rather an information gap,” said Wendy Cukier, a vice-president at Ryerson and chair of the new Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation.
According to Cukier, 30 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses in Ontario report having unfilled job vacancies. However, that doesn’t mean the workers aren’t out there.
“There may in fact be enough engineers out there to meet the needs of companies, but if those companies don’t know where the engineers are, and if those engineers don’t know those companies are hiring, then we have a problem,” she said.
Another issue is the so-called “hidden labour market,” said Mark Patterson, the executive director of Magnet, a non-profit employment service in Toronto that’s partnered with the OCWI.
“A lot of jobs aren’t necessarily posted,” he said. “So if you’re not in the right networks or don’t have the social capital … you’re often left out of opportunities.”
That tends to have an adverse effect on the job prospects for youth and new immigrants, Patterson said.
It’s still early in the process, but Cukier said the OCWI will study what other jurisdictions have done to better connect job-seekers with employers and examine how to implement them in Ontario.
“Unemployment and underemployment are arguably one of the biggest challenges the province is facing,” she said. “Anything we can do to address the problem will lead to more resilient communities and significant economic growth.”
Different regions, different jobs
The job market in Ontario can be very regionalized, said Magnet director Mark Patterson. In Toronto, a thriving tech start-up scene is driving demand for programmers and app developers, while in Niagara, wineries and hotels are having trouble finding trained hospitality staff.
“That can limit their ability to grow their business if they can’t find the right talent,” he said.