The Ontario government is investing nearly $1.5 million to support several skills training programs for students and workers across the London region.
The money is part of the provincial government’s recovery plan for Ontario’s pandemic-hammered economy, and aims to connect job-seekers with in-demand jobs.
We “need to make sure people can participate in the economic recovery,” Monte McNaughton, a local MPP and Ontario labour minister, said at Wednesday’s funding announcement in London.
“As we carefully reopen Ontario’s economy, innovative training initiatives . . . are an essential part of our efforts.”
Between March and June, the London region shed more than 30,000 jobs due to pandemic-induced business shutdowns, leading to the area’s unemployment rate reaching a 20-year high at 12.6 per cent.
Since then, the local economy has begun to rebound, adding 11,200 positions in July, a figure that includes people who were laid off at the height of the pandemic and have now returned to work. The unemployment rate for the region, which also takes in Strathroy, St. Thomas, and portions of Middlesex and Elgin counties, now sits at 10.5 per cent.
But even before the pandemic, as many as 204,000 jobs in Ontario were unfilled, costing the provincial economy $24 billion a year, said McNaughton, MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.
Filling those jobs and the ones lost to the pandemic has become even more important for the province’s economic future, he added.
“This is our government’s mission, to ensure that we have the workforce for the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow,” McNaughton said.
Among the initiatives being supported by the new funding is Pillar Nonprofit Network’s CityStudio London program, which will receive $214,000. Through it, some students at London’s post-secondary schools are connected with city hall staff to create projects to solve real problems being faced by the city.
“Through this process, students develop tangible experiences that help them prepare for their careers in their chosen fields,” said Mischa Schlemmer, the program’s manager.
The new funding will allow the CityStudio London project, started last year, to expand to 40 class projects from 21 and serve more than 900 students, Schlemmer said.
Some of the recent projects developed through the program include pilot projects around improving recycling in city parks, a strategy for the implementation of a child literacy program and a social housing client survey.
Other projects to be supported by the new money include the training of 540 youth for careers in landscaping, horticulture and agriculture at Thorndale’s Greenhouse Academy; funding to help 2,200 elementary and high school students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) sectors; and the training of 25 newcomers and Indigenous people for employment in manufacturing or construction sectors.