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Guest Editorial – Making Guelph a Better Place

We all know the story of the most recent great recession. In 2008, the Canadian economy faced turmoil not seen in generations, and Guelph felt the full force of these pressures. Fortunately, the Guelph economy has more than recovered; in fact, Guelph leads Canada in job creation.
Guelph’s unemployment rate is fluctuating between 4.5 and 5%, one of the lowest in Canada. But is that a good thing? It is great that Guelph citizens are employed, but many economists would suggest that Guelph is approaching “full employment.” Full employment is defined as the point at which there is no cyclical unemployment, and is commonly thought to happen between 3% and 5% unemployment. It presents real challenges for the local economy and area businesses, because it becomes difficult to recruit the people needed to grow businesses.
In addition to the pressures of full employment, Guelph is experiencing other workforce challenges: the economy is shifting to be more knowledge-based, employers are struggling to find employees with the skills they need and workers are not finding work that’s commensurate with their skills. The world is getting “flatter” with an increase in global competitiveness and need for innovation. Since baby boomers are retiring and the birth rate is too low to replace the population, growth will only happen through of immigration.
However, there are good solutions to these challenges, solutions that keep our community members employed and also fuel our economic growth. Recent immigrants, especially those with professional education and experience, are essential to the future of the Guelph economy. They allow employers access to a huge supply of potential employees.
Many studies have shown that internationally trained professionals can increase a business’s bottom line, make a company more competitive locally and globally, and bring creative solutions to your workplace. They are so vital the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has made new Canadians and their inclusion in our workplaces a centrepiece of its agenda to build a 21st century workforce.
What can we do to be more inclusive of new Canadians? We can start by looking to the work of the Local Immigration Partnership. It has made significant strides towards the creation of an integrated settlement strategy and support system for new Canadians. This has started to remove barriers faced by new Canadians moving to Guelph. The Guelph Chamber of Commerce has also been working with employers through their Global Experience @Work initiative. It has helped employers create workplaces that welcome new Canadians and provided employers with access to new talent that otherwise would have been missed. Much of this work has helped employers navigate supports already present. It is important the new Canadians get employed in job matching their skills, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Mowet Institute estimate that new-Canadian underemployment costs between $3.4 and $5 billion a year.
But where do we go from here? As a community we need to continue both the dialogue and action already starting. We need to ensure that new Canadians feel welcome and a sense of belonging. We need to ensure they can find work commensurate with their education and experience. New Canadians need access to services that help them adapt, and employers need to continue to look at how to make the workplace a welcoming environment for newcomers. Together we can continue Guelph’s tremendous success through support to the newest members of our community.
Aaron Stauch is program manager
at Lutherwood’s Guelph Employment Services office.

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