Sudbury region needs more immigrants, new report advises

More interest from smaller and more remote urban centres:

A new report suggests employers and the broader public need to embrace immigration as one of the best ways to fill critical skilled labour shortages in the region.

It’s one of the findings of the report, published by Workforce Planning for Sudbury & Manitoulin.

The report highlights labour shortages and changing attitudes towards work as key challenges that should be addressed.

While each region experienced growth in the number of businesses in their areas last year, a shrinking labour pool continues to be exacerbated by issues like changing demographics, out-migration, an increase in the number of people who fall into the NEET (not in education, employment or training) category, and employers who are unwilling to adapt, change, and train apprentices.

To survive and thrive in the future, the report suggests that communities should recognize the value of immigrants and remain adaptable and flexible as labour market realities continue to change.

“One interesting thing we look at was immigrant data,” said Reggie Caverson, executive director of Workforce Planning for Sudbury & Manitoulin.

“What we saw was that the majority of the immigrants living in the region actually arrived before 1981. From 1981 to 2016, we didn’t even manage to double that number.”

Before 1981, 5,335 immigrants were residing in Greater Sudbury; 500 in the Manitoulin District; and 790 in the Sudbury District.

From 2011 to 2016, 1,005 immigrants arrived in Greater Sudbury; 45 in the Manitoulin District; and 60 in the Sudbury District.

The report observed that over the last several decades, the number of immigrants arriving in the area has been increasing.

Caverson predicts that the data from the 2021 census will see that number increase further.

There have been several businesses in Greater Sudbury that have been turning to immigration to fill job vacancies, especially for skilled labour positions they are having trouble filling locally.

For example, Carriere Industrial Supply, located in Lively, recently hired 12 welders from Mexico, working with immigration and international recruiting agency IVEY Group to facilitate the process.

But there has been some public reluctance to accept immigration as a viable solution to the labour shortage issue.

Michael Addison, general manager of the LaCloche Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation (LAMBAC) said that this reluctance is often due to misunderstanding.

“There is some resistance to the idea in small Northern communities,” he said. “But many people don’t understand that there just aren’t enough people to fill the jobs.”

Rural areas are seeing a greater increase in out-migration.

“Young families are choosing to move to bigger cities for the opportunities whether it be in terms of education, work, or experiences for their families.”

Addison, who is currently working with the City of Espanola to develop a five-year strategic plan, also said that before rural communities can hope to attract more people, certain issues have to be addressed.

In Espanola, for example, there is a lack of affordable housing, which jeopardizes the community’s ability to keep people there.

Immigrants might also find the transition into the community difficult because they may not have adequate access to food, places of worship, or community organizations that address their needs.

Developing regional strategies for everything from workforce planning to economic development is also difficult in rural areas that are often made up of numerous municipalities.

Organizations like LAMBAC are trying to develop strategies to get communities working together.

To address labour shortages, the report also looks at the barriers local residents might face when trying to enter the labor market.

Employment service providers in the region report an increase in international students, newcomers, refugees, immigrants, women and highly-barriered individuals who access their services.

They identified significant mental health issues (including mental illness, addiction, criminal records, and learning disabilities), youth with unrealistic wage expectations, poor working conditions, high employer expectations, and a lack of transportation or affordable healthcare as significant barriers to employment.

WPSM’s labour market plan also analyzes data about NEET youth that has not been reported before. NEET youth includes anyone who is not currently in education, employment or training.

This data is significant because it represents a portion of the working-age population that does not seem to be ready, willing, or able to work.

The data shows that the number or percentage of NEET youth aged 20 to 24 gets progressively higher with progressively lower levels of education.

The report recommends improvements to the apprenticeship system to avoid labour shortages in the skilled trades.

These improvements could include financial incentives for employers to hire apprentices, reducing red tape and introducing trades to children at a younger age.

Employers are still falling short when it comes to offering equitable opportunities for women, Indigenous people and persons with disabilities.

These underrepresented populations could benefit from increased opportunities to enter the workforce, the report also found.

It’s impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the labour market in the next 10 to 15 years, but the report ultimately identifies the need to remain flexible and adaptable in the face of change.

The 2019-2020 Local Labour Market Plan, published in February, aims to provide insight into what is happening with local industries, local jobs, and the local economy in Greater Sudbury, the Sudbury District, and the Manitoulin District.

As of June 2019, Greater Sudbury had 11,498 businesses; Manitoulin District had 1,088 businesses; and Sudbury District had 1,484 businesses.

While each of these areas has seen growth, 62% of those businesses have zero employees.

There were 9,804 jobs posted online in 2019 for Greater Sudbury; 420 for the Manitoulin District; and 316 for the Sudbury District.

In Greater Sudbury, there has been an increase in employment in various sectors, including construction, finance and insurance, real estate, and healthcare.

Source: Sudbury region needs more immigrants, new report advises

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: