How FEDNOR Can Help Communities Like Thunder Bay With An Aging Population Develop Its Workforce



Introduction


Canada has an aging population. More than 400 communities, including Thunder Bay with a median age of 44 years, are in the process of preparing for the inevitable - their aging populations will no longer work in professions that were once working-class or lower middle class. The people in these communities need to be able to retrain for new skills, and they need help in doing so. And also, if someone is unemployed or underemployed, that person needs help finding a new job.


There will be a number of impacts related to the region's demographic shift. Thunder Bay's aging population will require changes in educational programming, healthcare, housing, and social support, elder care, and community recreation services. Some municipalities noted that loss of job opportunities will likely result in increased health crisis among seniors and fewer people will be available to provide end-of-life care.


An aging population is causing many municipalities in northern Ontario to experience an array of significant challenges including rising costs in the healthcare sector; growing demand for affordable housing; increasing rates of poverty; insufficient financial assets and investments; and a lack of affordable, culturally relevant senior care facilities. These issues are taking their toll on our communities.


The North Superior Workforce Planning Board has made recommendations to ensure the success of an integrated workforce planning system for Thunder Bay and its neighbouring regions. The Board has identified a number of key strategies in their report: Creating Connections – Recommendations for a Greater Thunder Bay Workforce, including strategies that involve all levels of government, business sectors, educational institutions, and local communities. The strategy will require support from all stakeholders as well as adequate funding to sustain it into the future. The recommendations in this initiative have no cost associated with them and, therefore, support direct employment for Thunder Bay residents.


The Board recommends that the Ministry of Training and Education implement a comprehensive needs assessment of the region’s education and training sector; develop a workforce planning system for Thunder Bay-Superior North that includes a comprehensive needs assessment of the region’s education and training sector; evaluate graduate outcomes in postsecondary institutions to determine degree/certificate completion rates; determine job placement rates in the region’s post-secondary institutions and industries; identify labour force needs for regional businesses, tradespeople, public service providers, health care professionals, students, and other workers within the area.


The federal government can play an important role in supporting effective regional labour market development initiatives through its community investment stream for community support and engagement programming. Research suggests that investments in skills development can provide long-term economic benefits to individuals and communities.


Thunder Bay Regional Labour Market Development Initiative


DV believes FEDNOR and the federal government make new investments in a new, what DV calls, a Thunder Bay Regional Labour Market Development Initiative. What is the Thunder Bay Regional Labour Market Development Initiative? It is an example of what can be done when a community works closely with a federal government department and universities to create a comprehensive strategy to address the needs of all aspects of an economy. This area, as DV has said, is facing the challenging issues associated with an aging population. The Regional Labour Market Development Initiative has been working DV predict for over 20 years (funded by the Government of Canada) and is currently being led by Lakehead University and DV believes the Northern Policy Institute. This Initiative is a collaborative economic development project that has been supported by governments from all three levels of government, including the Government of Ontario, federal and Indigenous governments, who are all working together for the long-term health and sustainability of Canada's economy.


The Thunder Bay Regional Labour Market Development Initiative (TBR LMDI) is an example of what can be done when a community works closely with a federal government department. TBR LMDI can be providing funding to four partners (the community, the City of Thunder Bay, Fort William First Nation, and Lakehead University) that work together to address issues at the local level related to an aging local population in order to help ensure Lakehead's long term viability as a modern industrial centre. The community, the City of Thunder Bay, Fort William First Nation, and Lakehead University work together to address issues at the local level related to an aging population in order to help ensure Lakehead's long-term viability as a modern industrial centre. Our submission to the federal government suggests that resources for these projects would be best leveraged through the federal Community Investment stream of programming funding as "part of a comprehensive approach that addresses issues pertaining to an aging population".


Further, DV proposes that FEDNOR should provide two streams of federal funding. The first stream should be equally divided between TBR LMDI and a similar initiative in Sudbury. Under the recommendation, TBR LMDI would receive $X million in federal funding over five years through the Community Investment stream. Sudbury would receive $X million in funding from the Community Investment stream. Both initiatives would operate separately and have no collaborative relationship with each other.


The second stream of funding should be directed to communities that are in a position to try things a little differently (for example, not focusing on training or education) and who have identified that they have an aging population. There are many towns in northern Ontario that may be at the beginning of the process. For example, Red Lake has been identified as having an aging population, and the town is interested in looking at what can be done to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. FEDNOR should work with communities like Red Lake to use funding from the Community Investment stream to support a community-led evaluation of a relatively new idea that may have long-term benefits for people and businesses in this community. There are many other communities in northern Ontario that have an interest or need to do something different related to their aging population. FEDNOR should try new initiatives based on local knowledge and Indigenous knowledge and learn from each other. FEDNOR should commit to funding new initiatives, with a higher risk, in the Community Investment stream for communities who want to try something different.


In building this report, DV predicts that FEDNOR worked with people from Thunder Bay, Sudbury, and from many smaller communities across Canada who are interested in how they can help themselves address the challenges of their aging population.


The perspectives that were shared by these people have contributed significantly to DV's proposed recommendations. The knowledge and ideas that came directly from people who live in small and remote northern Ontario towns have helped identify a new approach to building a strong workforce in Canada's north. It is based on Indigenous thinking; it is based on community-led innovation. DV suggests that the federal government should make new investments in communities where there is strong local leadership.


The Thunder Bay Regional Labour Market Development Initiative can achieve the following:

  • would support important improvements like better academic achievement, more employment opportunities, and reduced crime. The federal government could take advantage of the strength of Thunder Bay, Fort William First Nation, and Lakehead University to create a more prosperous Lakehead Region. Within this regional labour market development initiative FEDNOR would separately fund a small grant program that would be operated and managed by the communities themselves for activities not currently eligible for funding through existing programs (e.g., projects aimed at young Indigenous people).


  • will have strong coordination and partnership with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. It will also be part of a large network of complex regional labour market initiatives with focused efforts on workforce development working with employers and other key partners to respond to labor market needs.


  • has the potential to improve regional economic growth and labour market participation in the Lakehead Region. This initiative will support greater private sector investment and offer more opportunities for individuals who live and work in Thunder Bay to develop new skills, access training, and find employment. The initiative will help to bridge the gap between education, training, and labour market demand.


  • Thunder Bay's young people have always enjoyed high-paying employment opportunities in a wide range of fields. However, there has been a decline in youth participation rates in all sectors of the economy; DV predicts this trend to continue for the next 20 years or more. This initiative will ensure that the labour market can continue to build on this high participation rate with continued economic prosperity for residents of Thunder Bay. The Thunder Bay Regional Labour Market Development Initiative will build on the success of the Community Futures program that supports the development and expansion of highly valued small and medium-sized enterprises, business clusters, and trade associations in Thunder Bay. The program has been extremely influential with many local businesses and organizations benefiting from its services.


  • is a project that would aim to build economic growth in the area by creating an economic cluster of high-wage, high-skill jobs. The initiative would bring together key stakeholders to better understand labour market needs, trends, and gaps. The Initiative would integrate new and emerging skills development, education, and innovation to address the gap between employers' needs and current educational, training, and career pathways in Thunder Bay.


  • is a key prerequisite to improving the city's economy. With an aging population and the manufacturing sector in a structural slowdown, there is a need for new opportunities for young people in the city. FEDNOR believes that the federal government should make new investments in the Thunder Bay Regional Labour Market Development Initiative.


  • will support greater private sector investment and offer more opportunities for individuals who live and work in Thunder Bay to develop new skills, access training, and find employment. The initiative will help to bridge the gap between education, training, and labour market demand.


  • will increase access to, training in, community development opportunities within Thunder Bay's region. This program will increase employment opportunities while building a sustainable workforce within local communities. In the long term, this initiative will help strengthen local economies by building employment opportunities that create lasting economic growth.


  • would support important improvements like better academic achievement, more employment opportunities, and reduced crime. The federal government could take advantage of the strength of Thunder Bay, Fort William First Nation, and Lakehead University to create a more prosperous Lakehead Region. Within this regional labour market development initiative FEDNOR would separately fund a small grant program that would be operated and managed by the communities themselves for activities not currently eligible for funding through existing programs (e.g., projects aimed at young Indigenous people).


  • will have strong coordination and partnership with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. It will also be part of a large network of complex regional labour market initiatives with focused efforts on workforce development working with employers and other key partners to respond to labor market needs.


  • will be designed with three core components: the Employment Services Centre, employer engagement and training, and economic development. The initiative will enhance the existing Thunder Bay Employment Services Centre to ensure that it provides current and future workers with the skills they need to remain competitive in the labour market. The initiative will also enhance employee training opportunities with targeted career counselling, mentoring, and other supports.


  • will build on this foundation by supporting a broader range of economic growth drivers including entrepreneurs, skilled trades, manufacturing, research and innovation, tourism, cultural events/attractions, as well as supply chain businesses or those serving a specific skill sector. These sectors will be identified through collaboration among key stakeholders such as governments, educational institutions, employers in the region. The Thunder Bay Regional Labour Market Development Initiative will target one or more of these sectors or industries and will concentrate on building a sustainable supply chain ecosystem.

Potential FEDNOR Recommendations.


1. Acknowledge and embrace that Canada's north is an aging society, and ensure that federal policy supports the unique needs of northern Ontario communities dealing with the challenges created by this "demographic change".


2. Increase funding for the TBR LMDI to $X million over five years (or $X million per year). This will be equal to what other communities across Canada will get through their Community Investment stream. The funding for both streams will stop after five years and all future investment decisions will be made by both levels of government on an annual basis based on evaluation results from each community.


3. In order to support an aging population in Canada's north, FEDNOR should create a new program of $X million over five years (or $X million per year) to fund the Thunder Bay Regional Labour Market Development Initiative. The TBR LMDI will be funded for activities that are not eligible for funding under the existing Community Investment stream. These activities will include projects which support youth employment and youth development, education, training and skills development, community infrastructure investments and services to seniors in need (e.g., caregiving services), local economic development initiatives related to the weakening economy, etc.


4. FEDNOR will fund the Thunder Bay Regional Labour Market Development Initiative through an initial funding allocation of $X million per year for five years. After five years, all future investment decisions will be made by both levels of government on an annual basis based on evaluation results from each community.


The funds will be administered by Lakehead University and Fort William First Nation and the program will be led by a joint steering committee consisting of representatives from the two communities, Lakehead University and Fort William First Nation, and FEDNOR. The joint steering committee must include at least one representative from each community involved in the initiative.


5. The joint steering committee will report to FEDNOR and the federal government on the progress of the TBR LMDI each year.


Initiatives aimed at helping communities in Northern Ontario deal with the challenges created by an aging population


FEDNOR should work with the federal government to create a new program of $X million per year for five years (or $X million per year) for initiatives aimed at helping communities in northern Ontario deal with the challenges created by aging population. These initiatives will be co-led and co-funded by FEDNOR and the federal government. The initiatives include:


(a) A challenge-based initiative for Aboriginal communities with an aging population that would seek to address opportunities for Elders to remain in the community throughout their lifetimes.


(b) An Aboriginal community-based challenge that provides opportunities for communities to undertake local economic activities that will help them to become more sustainable.


(c) A northern Ontario regional labour market initiative (or "labour market development initiative") that would focus on the skills and needs of an aging population in northern Ontario, particularly those communities with an aging population.


(d) A series of poverty reduction strategies in northern Ontario that would focus primarily on reducing food insecurity and strengthening social and physical infrastructure across the region. Canada's north is home to some of Canada's poorest regions.


(e) A program of investments that would promote the training and skills development needs of northern Ontario's growing population of Aboriginal youth.


(f) A workforce development initiative that would focus on creating opportunities for women to participate in the workforce in northern Ontario, particularly in high-demand sectors such as health care, education, and public service. In some communities, there are gender-based employment barriers for women, including culturally based expectations as well as gender-specific segregation and family obligations. These types of barriers can limit the capacity of some communities to benefit from strong economic growth that has occurred in recent years, even though these communities are located close to job opportunities (e.g., Thunder Bay).


(g) A northern Ontario Aboriginal seniors' project that would create a range of opportunities for elders to stay in the community and contribute to the community.


(h) A program of investments that would promote affordable housing and other supports for seniors in communities across northern Ontario. This program will focus on providing a range of affordable housing options through local partnerships with non-profit community organizations, community trusts, or Aboriginal organizations (similar to the Access Points project). The success of this type of initiative depends on good coordination between the public and private sectors.


(i) A strategic investment in community infrastructure (or "IT infrastructure programs") for northern Ontario communities with an aging population that has limited technology infrastructure and/or face barriers to access to important information. The project will include investments in digital literacy and online training, as well as targeted equipment for the local library (e.g., computers). Investments in IT infrastructure are necessary across northern Ontario because of the majority of health care, education, and public service activities being conducted over the Internet.


(j) An Aboriginal challenge that encourages Aboriginal communities to organize themselves in ways that address their own needs and goals.


(k) An Aboriginal entrepreneurship challenge that would seek to encourage the participation of Aboriginal entrepreneurs at all stages of the business lifecycle, including start-up, growth, and expansion. The candidate communities will be from northern Ontario with an aging population.

  1. Each of the initiatives should receive funding for two or three years before being evaluated for success. They will be evaluated using similar outcome data collection methodologies that FEDNOR uses with other community investment streams. Funding decisions will be made on an annual basis based on evaluation results from each initiative.

  2. The project financing for these initiatives should be supported by the federal government.

  3. If funds are not available within FEDNOR's proposed budget, FEDNOR should make a request to the federal government to support the initiatives through a new program of up to $X million per year (or $X million per year) over five years ($X million in total).

  4. The co-funding of initiatives by FEDNOR and the federal government should occur in a manner that is equitable.

  5. FEDNOR should not receive additional funding from the federal government for current initiatives to avoid duplication of efforts and duplication of costs between the two programs. For example, if FEDNOR receives $X million in new investment funding through other sources such as a new program, any existing Community Investment streams should not be supported until these projects are complete (e.g., if MNR invests $X million towards a project, and FEDNOR also invests $X million towards that same project, then both organizations would contribute to completing that project).

  6. The evaluation process for Community Investment streams should continue to take place under the same coordinated approach as the evaluation processes for the other community investment streams (e.g., the final report is due every year).

  7. The submission of funding applications is expected to continue, as FEDNOR continues to work on developing community capacity and investing in northern communities.

  8. FEDNOR will have a working group of community organizations and northern stakeholders that will monitor the effectiveness of this directive through regular reporting to the Board and other stakeholders.

  9. FEDNOR will have an internal monitoring process by providing regular reports to the Board on the progress of each initiative.

  10. FEDNOR will engage northern stakeholders to inform the evaluation of its Community Investment initiatives in a transparent manner and allow for meaningful consultation to take place.

  11. FEDNOR will ensure that the board makes effective decisions on priorities and policies with input from all stakeholders, including northern Ontario organizations and communities. The Board should have an open door policy where community members may express their views as well as be able to provide comments on proposals before they being considered by the Board.

  12. There should be a transition period for each initiative to ensure that the federal government is aware of its financial needs, as well as other stakeholders (e.g., Health Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, MNR) and community organizations that are participating in the initiative. This information will be provided to FEDNOR on an ongoing basis during the life of each initiative through an annual report summary and briefing on progress at each meeting of its Board of Directors or other decision-making body.


Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP)


A while ago, the Government of Canada announced that they were launching yet another immigration pilot program. This time it's for rural and northern communities.


The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Program is a program that was created in order to help rural and northern Canadian communities adapt to the influx of newcomers. The goal of the program is to promote cultural adaptation, civic integration, and economic growth


The goal is to find ways to help people who are struggling in these regions have better lives by bringing in immigrants with different skillsets. While this isn't the first immigration pilot the government has done, it does seem like a promising idea because these areas are often desperate for investment and new ideas.


The project will run over several years, with an initial two-year commitment from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to work with provinces and territories on identifying criteria for potential participants as well as other options outside of just traditional economic classes.


So What Does This Pilot Look Like?


It's a pretty ambitious project. The first phase of the project is to identify the rural and northern communities that will participate in the pilot. This will include data collection, consultations, and focus groups. The goal here is to help identify what makes a community successful in rural and northern areas.


The second phase is to begin admitting rural and northern settlement candidates through IRCC's Express Entry system, meaning they'll be bringing in skilled workers from all over the world into Canada who meets its criteria for economic class immigrants.


But the third and final phase of the project is to identify possible options for rural and northern immigration outside of the Express Entry process. The goal here is to look at other ways we can help rural and northern communities by targeting immigrants who can support them in their economic development priorities. It's also looking at how to improve economic outcomes for Canadian citizens living in these areas as well.


A lot of these areas have a history of some very difficult bouts as far as identity and culture goes, so they're hoping that bringing in more people from diverse backgrounds will help drive diversity and give them more options (especially considering Canada's aging population).


Overall, the results of the pilot program will be evaluated after three years, by this time the government will have a better picture of how these programs are being run and whether they should continue or be changed in some way. What they're looking for is evidence that the pilot program is succeeding and being successful in helping to promote economic growth in rural and northern areas of Canada.


Please visit Thunder Bay's RNIP here.










































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