By Al Downham
The province’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) announced the launch of the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation (OCWI) Feb. 22 to help address issues in Ontario’s employment and training sector.
“It is more critical than ever to ensure we are doing everything we can to make sure job seekers can benefit from the most evidence based and effective employment and training services that our government offers,” said Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Reza Moridi.
The centre — led by 12 partner organizations including Ryerson, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), the Workforce Planning Ontario network and five other post-secondary institutions — will evaluate potential solutions addressing challenges in the provincial economy.
“Ryerson is the leading institution,” said interim-president Mohamed Lachemi. “The idea is really to provide linkages between employment for students, but also training and how the centre can help really connect the dots.”
A press release states the OCWI will research, pilot and evaluate employment and training projects, along with launching a bilingual website to share its research. The collaboration between partners and research will give Ontario a “single window” to choose effective approaches towards improving these programs and labour market conditions.
“I think that the key thing about the centre is the centre doesn’t deliver programs, it’s members delivering programs,” said Ryerson vice-president research and innovation Wendy Cukier. “But the focus of the centre is to make sure we have good solid research and data to see what the requirements are, what the programs are, whether the programs are delivering the goals that are intended.”
Cukier is a chair of the OCWI working group.
OCC President and CEO Allan O’Dette said the centre will aim to address unemployment and under-emplyoment in the province.
“We’ve seen significant gaps in the province,” O’Dette said. “There are 1,000 jobs plus going unfilled. There are jobs without people and people without jobs.”
George Brown College vice-president research and innovation Robert Luke said in a release that the initiative will assure the “Greater Toronto Area has effective workforce preparation” and help meet the market’s demands for qualified post-secondary graduates.
The centre will be funded by a MTCU grant worth $7.5 million over two years. Ontario currently invests over $1 billion annually into Employment Ontario which helps citizens get employment training and connect with potential employers.
The OCWI will operate with four Anglophone hubs located in London, Toronto, Thunder Bay and Gananoque/Kingston. A Francophone hub will be stationed in Sudbury.
“I think this will be a win/win, especially for the youth that are looking for jobs but also for the youth that are looking for opportunities to enhance their credentials,” said Lachemi. “I think everybody’s excited.”