The Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel recently submitted an in-depth report with recommendations to grow Ontario’s highly skilled workforce that meets the employers’ needs and leads to a developed economy for the province.
The report presents a shared vision that expands the narrative of a ‘highly skilled workforce’ to include the responsibilities of all stakeholders including the government, employers, training and employment agencies, educational institutions and other community organizations. In addition to skills and opportunities, this vision of workforce includes – awareness of and access to opportunities, use of hands-on experience as a training methodology, empowerment of the workforce to choose from various career paths, civic literacy, respect for diversity and international experience being valued by employers – as some of the important aspects integrated into the concept of a skilled and vibrant workforce. To implement this shared vision, the report recommends all stakeholders to learn, understand and fulfill the new roles and responsibilities needed to achieve success for the greater good that is sustainable.
In this context, the report highlights the importance of a sector-based workforce development strategy. Instead of focusing on providing our workforce with EITHER skills OR opportunities, we need to provide them with skills AND opportunities. These skills and opportunities should be connected, to each other and to the needs of the jobs of the present and future. This can be possible if we develop inclusive partnerships, which connect Ontario’s employers with their partners in education, labour, training, recruitment, community organizations and government. To quote from a report on Sectoral Strategies For Low-Income Workers by Aspen Institute (2007): “Sector strategies approach both sides of the employment equation –the “supply side” that must produce skilled, employment-ready labor (through training, job coaching, counseling, case management etc.) and the “demand side” that creates and shapes opportunities for workers to use their skills and be compensated for their work.”
Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel report suggests that in this way we can address the dynamic workforce needs of particular in-demand sectors on the one hand, and integrate underrepresented groups into the sustainable employment opportunities on the other hand. It is not just a win-win, but actually a win-win-win situation where the benefits accrue to the communities, employers and economy on the whole.
Some key analysis and ensuing recommendations by the Expert Panel highlight the approach that guides the work of Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC), and we are fortunate to be recognized by this report as one of the success stories as such. Some of the recommendations that represent our work include:
Sectoral Focus and Partnerships:
“Addressing mismatches between labour market supply and demand with a sectoral focus.”
“Leading initiatives that support workforce planning in partnership with employers, community and educational institutions.”
HWTC works alongside Toronto’s hospitality industry to provide new highly trained talent, and develop existing staff for higher performance and growth. Our training is designed to fulfill the current needs of the industry and is adapted to the changing demands. The hospitality industry of Toronto actively participates in curriculum development and provides avenues for training and paid placements of our trainees. After training completion, HWTC works with the trainees to connect them with employment opportunities in the sector and coach them further for application and interview preparation. In 2015, 80% of our trainee participants were successfully placed in jobs in the hospitality industry. Our advisory board comprises of key representatives of major hotels in Toronto and actively works with us for workforce planning, training development and feedback.
On the other end, our outreach and recruitment of potential trainee participants include long-term partnerships with various community organizations of Toronto.
A Targeted Approach:
“Leveraging relationships with employers to assess skill need and develop training and experiential learning solutions to integrate underrepresented groups to address those need.”
“Identifying skill gaps and launching training programs specifically targeted toward underrepresented groups.”
HWTC’s plans the training courses, their content and frequency based on in-depth skill need assessment in the form of research and analysis as well as regular communication with employers. Training participants for our program represent youth, and/or people in receipt of Ontario Disability Supports Program or Ontario Works. In 2015, 32% of our training participants were unemployed youth, 28% were previously in receipt of Ontario Disability Supports Program and 63% in receipt of Ontario Works.
Reducing Barriers to Employment:
“Understanding current barriers to employment and developing solutions to have an inclusive workforce.”
HWTC works closely to reduce barriers to employment with various community organizations offering wraparound supports. The success of our approach relies on creating an enabling environment for sustainable success of our training participants. We refer our trainees to various supports that are needed to reduce barriers to learning and employment and continue to work with them throughout their first year of employment. More than 70% of our new entrant training participants have retained jobs over the course of their first year of work. In 2016, HWTC launched Hospitality Hangout, a weekly meet-up for our alumni to provide a common platform for continued support and networking opportunities for career advancement. We also work with employers to reduce process-based barriers to employment.
Training with Experience:
“Ensuring experiential learning opportunities adaptable to learners’ contexts”
All our training courses are designed to be hands-on in real work environments. Our social enterprise, Hawthorne Food & Drink is a full-service restaurant that provides the training ground for our Front of House and Back of House trainees. Our employer partners provide us space for training for other courses such as room attendants and banquet servers. One of our active employer partners is Toronto Don Valley and Suites that has provided dedicated space for our courses.
After the training is complete, trainees are assigned training placements where they get real-life experiences and many opportunities to showcase their skills that may lead to paid employment.
Career Advancement of Existing Workers:
“Launching training programs for existing workers in their workplace, allowing them to acquire skills needed to adapt to the changing work requirements. “
HWTC offers training courses to existing hospitality workers to help them advance professionally and personally. We work closely with the union, UNITE HERE Local 75 to offer free training opportunities for members.
In 2015, we trained 200+ existing hospitality workers in skills that include computers, language skills, Red Seal (cooks) preparation, banquet serving, financial literacy and food handlers/smart serve.
The Full report can be downloaded from here: Building The Workforce of Tomorrow – A Shared Responsibility
The summary of recommendations can be downloaded from here: Summary