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In 2014 the Canadian Chamber of Commerce delivered a report entitled, “A Battle We Can’t Afford to Lose: Getting Young Canadians from Education to Employment.” In 2012, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters association delivered a report entitled, “Canada’s Manufacturing Labour Market: A Reality Check for Canadian Industry and Government.”

The Province of Nova Scotia launched a new provincial Workforce Strategy in 2011. In fact, going back more than a decade to 2006, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce delivered a Policy Statement entitled, “Nova Scotia Skills Shortage.” From these reports we know our region and nation is facing workforce challenges. These challenges are now impacting businesses looking to hire suitable employees and job seekers searching for suitable employment.

Within Colchester County and across Nova Scotia, I’ve heard businesses in manufacturing and retail express difficulty finding “the right person,” i.e. to hire a person with the right skills and aptitude for the role. I’m sure this challenge occurs in other sectors as well. I’ve also read about the challenge of high youth unemployment throughout Canada.

I’ve heard the blame placed on many factors including; Millennials lacking work ethic, Boomers refusing to retire although they could afford to, education not equipping graduates with the right skills creating a skills gap, demographics – an aging and shrinking workforce and business not providing opportunities for those who lack experience. Placing blame will not solve the issue; working together will give us our best chance for success.

Government, educators, and business leaders appear to be aware of the issue and solutions are starting to be worked on. On March 30, 2017 The Globe and Mail ran a story on The Vector Institute in Ontario which is a non-profit independent facility.

Significant funds, $90 million from the federal and provincial government plus another $80 million from corporate donors was pledged. The goal being to understand the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the workforce and create more advanced degrees in AI fields to equip young Canadians with the future skills that will be in demand.

In our region, solving this issue will also require effort and cooperation between educators, the business community and governments to adapt and to ensure future job seekers have the right skills for future jobs. The Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce recognizes this issue and has formed a Youth Committee to focus on Youth Retention in our community.

We are also engaging our business community to play an active role to help match the available workforce with available jobs. We are in the early stages of planning an exciting event in the fall to bring businesses and job seekers together in an “open house” format. If you are interested to be a part of this (either as a host business or job seeker) we’d like to hear from you. I encourage you to contact the Chamber and follow our website at www.trurocolchesterchamber.com.

Alex Stevenson is a Manager of Commercial Banking at CIBC in Truro.