Reimagining Our Workforce Summit 2021

‘What [COVID-19] did was that it forced us all to work differently and break habits’

Reimagining Our Workforce Summit 2021
“There’s good jobs out there and it’s up to all of us to spread that hope.”

Yesterday, the Toronto Region Board of Trade hosted the Reimagining Our Workforce Summit. This event was the last in their #RecoverySummit series.

A three-part series, the first installment covered Ontario’s road to recovery post-pandemic, and included panels focused on topics such as recovery by trade or by sector. The second installment was the Board’s 6th Transportation Summit.

Skills development

The focus of this last summit was on understanding the challenges currently faced by the workforce, looking towards the future and finding solutions. The day-long event opened with a keynote speech from Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. 

McNaughton noted a number of programs that are in place or being put into place by the province to help workers find jobs, upskill or retrain – a huge concern in Ontario and across Canada.

The Minister notably highlighted two programs: apprenticeships for the skilled trades and the Second Career program.

“There’s good jobs out there and it’s up to all of us to spread that hope,” he said.

Speaking on the skilled trades, McNaughton highlighted promoting access for young people, racialized communities, veterans and women.

“These actions will help our employers, workers and economy as a whole…We’re looking forward to rebuilding Ontario’s skilled trades sector,” said the Minister.

During a Q&A session after the keynote, the Minister also highlighted the province’s Skills Development Fund, which he described as an “innovative new fund, we’re the first in North America to do something like this…Good meaningful jobs truly change lives.”

Find out more information on the fund here.

Re-thinking the workplace

The event featured three main panel discussions, featuring a host of high-profile guests. One of the most interesting panels on the day was actually the first: Understanding the Workforce of the Future.

The discussions and Q&A session afterwards highlighted a desire to re-think our current workplace. The physical workplace has been heavily affected by the pandemic. Speaking of the impact of COVID-19, Diane Kazarian, Managing Partner, GTA, PwC Canada said:

“There’s a much bigger question and opportunity here…What [COVID-19] did was that it forced us all to work differently and break habits.”

Kazarian spoke at length about how the pandemic is an opportunity to re-think our whole work culture, re-imagine the work force, re-imagine the work space and re-think new habits.

Speakers on the panel also touched upon the importance of diversity and inclusion. They highlighted the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on women and BIPOC and spotlighted their companies’ diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Kazarian said that these initiatives were not the sole responsibility of one department, but something which needs to be ingrained in company culture.

“This is not an HR driven problem, this has got to be built into the frontline of the business…It’s got to be an absolute priority,” she said.

Lastly, the panellists touched upon the importance of investing in tech, but also finding the right balance between digital endeavors and in-person.

Foreign workers

In the afternoon, Marco Mendicino, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizen gave a keynote speech.

Jan De Silva, President & CEO, Toronto Region Board of Trade, highlighted that the region relies heavily on immigrant workers – both due to economic policy and the desire to attract top talent.

“Due to the pandemic, Canada’s immigration numbers are significantly down,” she said.

However, the Minister said that one in three businesses is actually owned by an immigrant – notably the healthcare sector.

“This is where immigration can be a lifeline,” said Mendicino. Indeed, one in four workers in the healthcare sector is an immigrant. Immigration provides support for a sector that is currently under considerable strain. And this is also the case in other sectors such as building and trades, tech, agriculture, etc.

“Any serious discussion about our economic recovery has to involve immigration,” said Mendicino. “Immigration creates jobs, it creates economic growth.”