My pledge: I will support the work of the Economic Development Corporation and the programs in social services and the college that help workers upgrade their skills
When I did my first round of election calls, a retired couple talked to me about their son who they think will be moving to Alberta to work in the oil patch. They were sad that he had lost his job during the Great Recession and still can’t find anything equivalent to what he earned at Kitchener Frame.
Waterloo Region has weathered the Recession in much better shape than the rest of Ontario due mostly to our high-tech industries. The manufacturing industry has not done as well. Kitchener Frame (Budds) and Schneiders are gone along with other large manufacturers. Yet according to the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo, Wellington and Dufferin, 82 % of those who lost their job want to return to manufacturing. The problem is a mismatch between the workers, many of whom don’t have high school diplomas, and the skills needed in modern manufacturing. It is difficult for them to upgrade their skills. This comes up many times at the Employment and Income Advisory Committee that I chair at the Region.
There are manufacturing jobs in Waterloo Region. The Workforce Planning Board notes that 1 in 5 jobs in the Region is in manufacturing. But when even a labourer needs grade 12 to get a job, the problem is large.
The Region of Waterloo has a number of programs to help people get back into the workforce. When I toured the Foodbank last week, we saw young men being trained to be fork lift operators through a Regional program. Helps the food bank and the worker.
The main reason the provincial and federal government gave money to the Region was to provide jobs. 16,900 jobs will be created around the LRT/ION stations, everything from shops catering to the urban dwellers to high-tech start-ups. 4,000 local jobs will be created in the building and operating of the ION.
The Economic Development Corporation has been created so that all the Region’s cities and townships can speak with one voice when looking for new business to come to the region. It is an arm’s length corporation that will include Canada’s Technology Triangle. Arms length from local politics seems to work well in our Region. The Eastside lands in Cambridge are also being opened up with large parcels available for large plants.
The other problem for the Region is keeping and attracting skilled workers. These high-tech workers want a city that is a great place to live, work and play. It means a vibrant cultural scene, good alternate transportation like walking, cycling and transit, and an urban environment coupled with rural recreation like hiking and canoeing, along with regular recreation. These new startups and workers need to be able to go to and from Toronto without being stuck on the 401. Go Transit is key. We must also support the universities and Conestoga college and make Waterloo a welcoming place for students while understanding some of the concerns of other residents.