To reduce barriers to job training and skills development for rural residents of Perth County, the province will provide more than $1.8 million to support the development of a regional Technology and Skills Learning Hub in North Perth.
Joined by representatives from North Perth, Stratford-based skilled trades training provider Technical Training Group and long-distance training network Contact North, Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece announced the funding at Smith Steel & Fabrication in Atwood, just south of Listowel, early Tuesday evening.
“Currently, I understand that many local residents must travel over 50 kilometres to access the training they need. That distance is a barrier to those without a vehicle. It’s a barrier to anyone in winter weather and to those who are disabled,” Pettapiece said. “When it comes to training people for local jobs and encouraging them to stay in the community, that distance certainly doesn’t help.
“It will (also) make the area more competitive, enhancing employers’ and individuals’ access to training, tools and education. … This is not just a major investment. It tells us the future of the skilled trades is bright. It tells us that the economic future of North Perth and small communities across the riding is bright.”
The notion of developing a training hub in North Perth was put forward for funding by that municipality following discussions with local job-training providers as a way to help local employers fill in-demand jobs, give residents – particularly youth – a pathway toward rewarding careers in their home communities, and strengthen the local economy with a workforce trained in the skills employers need.
“Early in my term as mayor, I heard from many North Perth businesses and industries, including from our hosts, Smith Steel, about the importance of ‘upskilling’ their workers and ensuring that those who want to work and train get that opportunity without further disruption that would take people out of our community. … During those experiences … I pondered what might be done to create what I began to call the third way – a way to provide adult education that didn’t mean we locate a university here, or a college here, since those ambitions are actually quite unlikely in my lifetime,” North Perth Mayor Todd Kasenberg said Tuesday.
As part of North Perth’s proposal, Kasenberg, town council and municipal staff worked with local representatives from Contact North and the Technical Training Group to develop a new model for skills and job training that relies less on in-classroom learning and more on partnerships with local businesses for an on-the-job education while giving learners the technology, tools and connections needed to learn right in their own communities.
“The real focus in terms of development has been on securing technologies and supports for learners. There will be some modifications made to create a physical classroom space in the Elma Memorial Community Centre in Atwood, just up the road, but that’s not the real focus. The focus is to create a framework – a platform – for learners to engage in meaningful ways with technologies and with trades training right here in North Perth so they don’t have to go 50, 100 km away for school. … A significant part of the proposal was to (establish) learning labs in the community. We recognize that we have manufacturers and employers that can provide space and tools and facilities for the purposes of a project like this. And many of them have expressed support for a project like this and, of course, working with the students so they have access to them when they graduate,” Kasenberg said.
Whether it’s providing an income for those in training or promoting skilled trades as a career to local youth, Kasenberg, Pattapiece and their local partners said the North Perth Technology and Skills Learning Hub will be able to address many of the local labour force issues that currently exist in Perth County.
“It’s not just trade skills, but soft skills (and) management skills,” said Jeff Scholl, an education and training adviser with Contact North. “It’s not just about finding people to work, it’s also about keeping people in those places. That’s why this opportunity is very unique. Not only are we going to elevate people who don’t have skills into skilled positions, but we’re going to be able to elevate people who are working currently into being better managers and retaining their staff better.”
Some of the initial classroom learning through this new training hub could begin as early as June, Kasenberg said.
As part of Tuesday’s announcement, Pettapiece also announced a little more than $92,400 in funding for the Technical Training Group. That funding will enable the organization to deliver a new welding and metal pathway program that will provide local, hands-on welding and metal-fabrication training to 10 young people aged 16-25 in North Perth.
All provincial funding announced in Atwood Tuesday is provided through the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.