Northern Projections: Human Capital Series - Thunder Bay District is a series of reports released by the Northern Policy Institute and the Northern Ontario Workforce Planning Boards. The purpose of these reports (1 & 2) has been to provide factual information on employment, education, and demographic trends in the study areas. Areas within the report are identified by their respective census metropolitan areas (CMAs). A key aspect of this report is that each case study has been accompanied by an assessment of human capital attainment in that area, where appropriate.
The most recent report offers three key recommendations to promote the long-term sustainability of the district of Thunder Bay:
RECOMMENDATION #1 from NPI
Continue to foster female participation in the labour force in Thunder Bay District
Digital Vibes Recommendations for NPI Recommendation #1
1. Improve access to childcare
The best way to improve access to childcare is to provide more affordable and accessible programs. In addition, better care should be provided for children with learning disabilities or special needs, as well as single parents with children under the age of five.
2. Provide training for female entrepreneurs
Training programs for female entrepreneurs need to be expanded and made more accessible so that women's self-employment can be encouraged and sustained.
3. Provide wage and benefit parity
The wage and benefit parity is a phrase that refers to the idea that all employees should be provided with equal wages and benefits. This can also refer to a situation where the pay of one employee is not higher than another employee, because of a factor such as a gender.
4. Introduce a subsidized transportation subsidy (bus, taxi, etc.) to low-income families.
5. Offer specialty training for girls who are interested in entering trades
Girls need more encouragement to enter trade occupations; they should be provided with information and access to high-quality training. Additionally, this information should be provided at a young age so that girls can access it during their adolescence.
6. Provide training for aboriginal women who want to get into trades
Many women in the area attend trade schools due to the lack of female aboriginal educators. This creates an imbalance in terms of representation and several other areas which could be improved with more female aboriginal workers.
7. Improve working conditions
The majority of trades in the area have a high turnover rate, especially in the construction industry. This could be due to the high cost of working in Thunder Bay, as well as a lack of work-life balance.
8. Improve access to employment resources
Employment resources can be made more accessible and available to people in remote locations as well as creative ways of increasing the number of employment opportunities in remote areas.
9. Encourage businesses to adopt more family-friendly leave policies such as flexible starting and quitting times
Implement supports for new parents such as financial support in the form of child care vouchers and tax credits; incentives for employers to offer job-protected parental leave; government-subsidized daycare spaces; establish a centralized referral service for new parents which connects them with various services in the co
RECOMMENDATION #2 from NPI
Make Indigenous education the number one priority in the region
Digital Vibes Recommendations for NPI Recommendation #2
1. Improve Access to Education
The report cites a significant number of children and youth living in Thunder Bay who are growing up in poor conditions. It mentions that this is because many of these children do not have access to the same education systems as their non-Indigenous counterparts.
2. Improve access to employment opportunities
The report suggests that youth with an educational background will have a greater probability of participating in the workforce and therefore doing so will increase the overall skill levels of the region.
3. Improve access to Employment resources
The report mentions that previous research shows that the biggest factor of success in getting a job is through personal connections. This means that it may be beneficial to provide Indigenous individuals with opportunities to work in a place where they can develop those connections.
4. Increase access to post-secondary education
First Nations and Inuit students (i.e., those who identify themselves as Aboriginal persons, those who are non-status, and those with registered Indian status) have lower participation in post-secondary education.
5. Promote and encourage Indigenous women to pursue post-secondary education
Lack of opportunity to access post-secondary education is one of the major barriers that many youths face, especially in Thunder Bay. Several programs are offered for youth who need assistance with their studies
6. Seek to attract talent and investment
The report's data highlights that many low-skilled workers in the region are not able to navigate through the obstacles faced by Aboriginal people. The report highlights that this group is faced with very few opportunities due to barriers that include employment, education, and health.
7. Introduce a targeted focus on training
Many programs are aimed at youth and adults to help them increase their skill levels, nevertheless, these are not reaching the people who lack access to those programs. The report suggests the introduction of targeted investments in the areas of education, healthcare, and skills training. DV suggests a high need for skills training in digital literacy.
8. Spend Government funds in areas where they can create long-term productivity gains
The report suggests that some areas should be left alone as they have enough economic development. Some areas should be left alone as they lack social infrastructures such as education, healthcare, and skills training.
Recommendation #3 from NPI
Reverse the trends Thunder Bay’s population and labour force are shrinking and aging. The district has seen many people move away, and relatively few move in. As a result, Thunder Bay should focus on newcomer attraction in order to restore sustainable ratios of workers to dependents. In addition, the district should develop youth retention strategies that will stem the tide of youth outmigration.
Digital Vibes Recommendations for NPI Recommendation #3
1. Integrate work and family trends
Attrition in the labour force is partly a result of a shrinking workforce and an ageing population. In Thunder Bay, people are getting married later and having fewer kids. Women are spending more time in school and are less likely to work full-time. These trends are cause for concern: a shrinking labour force means fewer workers to fund the rising costs of health care, pensions, and other ageing support programs.
2. Plan for long-term decline
If the number of people and jobs in Thunder Bay declines, will Thunder Bay’s economy be able to absorb that decline? Many workers may be moving away because their employers are expanding elsewhere or shutting down operations.
3. Work on youth retention
Thunder Bay could improve youth retention by designing programs that help students stay in the district if they can’t find the right job. Employers could hire students to do summer or part-time work, while the government could invest in youth transition programs.
4. Consider the long-term future
Develop a plan that focuses on the long-term future of Thunder Bay, including an assessment of what skills this region needs and how they can be developed.
5. Support business and community leaders
Invite business and community leaders to contribute to a plan for the district.
6. Support innovation
Build on existing programs and emerging trends that promote inclusion, so more people are willing to participate in Thunder Bay’s future.
7. Provide more opportunities for youth to be active in their communities
Support more youth engagement in the community beyond summer programs, through social and recreational programs that help improve mental health, while also focusing on helping students learn capabilities—like teamwork, problem-solving, and taking initiative.
8. Encourage healthy lifestyles in the community
Invest in health services, such as health promotion and preventive services. Invest in programs that help students stay healthy when they’re not in schools, such as gym memberships, sports leagues, and recreation programs.
9. Improve health outcomes
Provide programs to reduce or eliminate health risks and mental health barriers that contribute to poor mental and physical health, such as poor diet, smoking, substance abuse, and violence.
10. Improve job prospects for youth
Invest in post-secondary and adult apprenticeship programs that build up local industry, training, and skills.
11. Work towards a diverse economy
To make Thunder Bay a more attractive place to live and work, it should focus on attracting a diverse economy of industries that include both large- and small-scale operations. It should also focus on appealing to those who are looking for metropolitan living and more traditional lifestyles.
12. Promote the community as friendly and accessible
Enhance the sense of community in Thunder Bay to improve its appeal. Invest in volunteer training programs and support programs for those with low incomes who can’t afford membership fees for recreation facilities and fees for recreation programs.
13. Promote student diversity
The report shows that a large number of students in Thunder Bay are living in poverty. This can be attributed to the fact that there is a significant amount of poverty in the community which makes it difficult for students to succeed.
14. Strengthen supports for students to succeed in school
15. Provide quick and efficient access to post-secondary options
The report shows that many students wish to pursue an education after high school but never get the chance to do so due to financial restrictions.
16. Work with youth organizations to develop and provide programming for youth in the community
The report mentions that this could be done through sports teams or programs that help young people gain the skills they need to keep them involved in the workforce.
17. Promote youth-led initiatives in the community
The report highlights the importance of youth-led initiatives as these are important for youth engagement as well as providing opportunities for collaboration.
18. Create a Youth Development Fund
19. Provide incentives for work-based learning
20. Create career skills training
The data suggests that the government could create a program that would provide training and development in the area of careers, specifically related to the mining industry and in other industries of importance to Thunder Bay.
21. Create a Youth Engagement and Career Planning Service
22. Invest in youth programs that provide life skills and social development
Overall Potential Recommendations
1. Focus on rural-urban migration
The report highlights a strong correlation between rural-to-urban migration and increased economic growth.
2. Invest in job creation
The report suggests that education does create jobs, but the creation of jobs alone is not enough. Investing in youth-focused programs is crucial, as well as investing in high-quality infrastructure, affordable and effective health services, and long-term tax benefits.
3. Continue to build on existing public sector partnerships
Decision-making is often localized, making it important for Thunder Bay's employers to maintain their extensive public sector relationships, which support both collaborative efforts between business and government as well as many other community organizations responsible for so many aspects of life across the region.
4. Build on the human capacity of the region and its ability to be a player regionally, nationally, and internationally
Thunder Bay has been able to leverage its natural resources and infrastructure to become a key part of the regional, national and international economy. The report suggests the need for continued support for organizations such as the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, which is playing an instrumental role in helping build human capital in the region.
5. Leverage post-secondary institutions and research facilities, as well as private sector investments to create projects that leverage the unique resource of Indigenous peoples in northern educational institutions and capitalize on their potential for future economic development.
6. Focus on innovation as a driver for long-term prosperity in Thunder Bay
The report suggests that investment in the district's infrastructure, human capital, and innovation could leverage significant economic activity.
7. Address gender inequities and barriers to women's participation in the economy
Gaps remain across every category of employment by education and occupation, and Native women suffer from greater proportions of poverty including between-group differentials.
8. Increase savings and investment in the region
9. Build a strong education system supported by the government, employers, and educators
Education is critical to the development of an innovative economy that leverages opportunities from an ageing workforce. This requires significant effort by all stakeholders to ensure a well-educated workforce will remain competitive for years to come.
10. Incentivize private sector businesses to invest in hiring and retention strategies for Indigenous peoples.
11. Achieve a greater alignment between education institutions and the labour market.
12. Stabilize or increase the number of adults with higher skill levels, particularly post-secondary credentials.
To do this will require community-based or sector-specific engagement and initiatives that are responsive to local needs while remaining cognizant of national and international economies.
13. Incentivize innovation and investment in the region's infrastructure
This can include targeted investments in infrastructure for distribution. Whether it is for natural resources or supporting human capital, targeted investments across the region can help to promote a more balanced economy, where new businesses and new jobs emerge just to service the needs of these new industries.