Thank you, 2022

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Thank you, 2022

It’s been a great year at Workforce Collective. As we wrap up 2022 and ease into 2023, we’re taking the time to celebrate, reflect, and integrate our learning from the year into our goals for the future. We’re most grateful to the people that partnered and engaged with us and those who are behind why we do this work.

Our community is our “Why”. We believe that if our workforce can reach its healthiest state, this will ripple out into the wellbeing of our community as a whole; that a diverse and healthy workforce is key to thriving communities. We’ve seen a lot of change in our global and local workforce this year – shifting job seeker and employee needs and values, intensified hiring challenges in a tight labour market, and successes in innovative approaches to address labour-related issues in our community.

Our “internal community” changed a lot this year, as we prioritized diversity and wellbeing within our organization. We implemented flexible work arrangements, like a 4-day work week and hybrid work-from-anywhere model, flattened our organizational structure, and invited Camila Concha (Project Specialist), Kevin Unger (Creative-in-Residence), Kaleb Meeks (Videographer/Content Creator, through NPAAMB’s youth work experience subsidy) and Felicia Coutu (through a youth work experience program, called CreateAction) to expand our team.

New members joined our Board of Directors as terms ended for others. We’ve learned (and continue to learn) so much from each individual through their leadership, insights, and diverse perspectives:

  • Jazz Clemente is our new board Treasurer and brings great perspective as an accountant, newcomer to Canada/Niagara, and past mentee within the Niagara Immigrant Connections Initiative program which we (Niagara Workforce Planning Board) used to facilitate;
  • Rebecca Nicholls is well-versed (and well-connected) in the realms of Employment Services and post-secondary education as Associate Dean of Workforce Development & Community Partnerships at Niagara College;
  • Ruth Unrau is a business coach, radio personality and community leader who was recently honoured by the Women in Niagara Council & Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce with the inaugural “Ruth Unrau Legacy Award” (you’re amazing, Ruth!!!)
  • Damian Goulbourne & Lori Beech joined just before 2022. Lori brings her holistic perspective informed by working and leading within social services, such as education, immigrant settlement, community housing and poverty reduction; and Damian brings his experience leading on non-profit organization boards, and within post-secondary education and municipal politics.
  • Carol Nagy, Karen Watt, Katerina Gonzalez & Betty-Lou Souter retired from the Board this year and are continuing to lead within our community in other inspiring ways.
  • Justin De Caire (Assistant Controller for Hamilton International Airport – and new dad!) stepped up as board Chair and Matthew Leask (Associate Lawyer – Lancaster Chown & Welch LLP), Mark Cherney (Business Manager & Financial Secretary – IBEW Local 303), Colleen Falco (VP Human Resources – Niagara Casinos), and Jennifer Guarasci (Associate VP, Human Resources – Brock University) are also continuing to support the leadership and governance of our organization.

And, a final note from some of our team members when asked, “What was one thing you learned in 2022 related to workforce dynamics/needs and how will it change your work going forward?”

Vivian: The role of employers in shaping workforce dynamics and in creating healthy workplaces has become very clear in 2022. Attracting and retaining staff in all employment sectors is one of the main economic and social development challenges of this decade. Our community relies on vibrant businesses, a healthy not-for-profit sector and strong public sector institutions, which together support a prosperous community that is diverse and inclusive.

Employers hold the key to establishing workplaces that are welcoming and where employees feel valued. Employers need to take the time to reflect on what this means for them in their own business or organization. It doesn’t matter whether employers have a staff of 5 or 500, there is work to be done to create healthy workplaces.

Going forward, through our community dialogues and projects, I will work to support the ways in which employers can respond to the changing and more complex dynamics that we now see within the workforce. And, as an employer, I will seek to ensure that our organization represents a healthy workplace- one where commitment and accountability are expected, and where health and wellbeing are prioritized.

Rachel: Taking an equity-seeking lens to workforce development led us to exploring employment-related issues experienced by underrepresented youth, which led us to working and learning alongside Indigenous community partners. The wisdom from working alongside this specific group of stakeholders is transferable across all and I believe the decolonized approach that we’re navigating through is necessary on the path to real learning and change across all systems.

Together, we’re exploring questions like, “How might we co-govern the research and design processes we engage in? How can data and information truly build community & capacity within community? How will we ensure that intent is followed through to meaningful impact?” In 2023, I’ll look forward to continued dialogue and engagement in this, what’s known to some as “Two-Eyed Seeing”, to help inform all other facets of our work– particularly the design of workforce-related projects and solutions.

Thalia: This year we started new ways of engaging partners, employers, job seekers, and other community organizations. Our methods have extended beyond just using surveys and interviews to increase the depth which we dialogue in community. For example, one tool we implemented throughout this year – led by Rachel (an amazing facilitator) – were ‘design labs’: sessions where we host a group of individuals representing an array of community members to ideate different ways to address common and persisting workforce challenges.

Moving forward, it will change my work because it is so much more deeply informed by a wealth of different perspectives. While this makes solutions potentially more complex to design as solutions are nuanced, the value of multiple perspectives and the opportunity to engage with the community in different ways (like surveys, focus groups, interviews, design labs, through podcasts, and other events) allows for collective impact.

Camila: Over the past year, our employer engagement also focused on immigrant hiring. Through design labs and focus groups with both newcomers and employers, we focused on the labour market integration of internationally trained professionals within Niagara region. The goal was to understand the opportunities, challenges and devise potential solutions for recruiting newcomer talent.

We’re exploring questions such as: How might employers get a clear understanding of newcomer employment regulations? How might we incentivize SMEs to undertake newcomer hiring? How might employers connect effectively with immigrant employment services offered by the government, private agencies, and post-secondary institutions?

As it becomes increasingly imperative to better utilize the knowledge and experience of skilled immigrants given the recent job demand for skilled candidates, I look forward to continuing researching, and engaging with employers and service providers to find strategies that increasingly help internationally trained professionals to gain better and meaningful employment in our labor market.

Cheers to another year of thinking and doing for a better workforce!

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