The City of Barrie and partners were successful in securing $1,083,108.00 in funding through the Skills Development Fund (SDF), supported in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, to address skills development and labour shortages within the manufacturing sector.
The City of Barrie’s skills development project focused on providing post-pandemic support to the manufacturing sector within Barrie and Simcoe County. It assisted local economic recovery efforts by addressing issues relating to talent pipeline and labour market shortage which have been experienced by local manufacturers. The project addressed industry demands for increasing the future manufacturing workforce and enabling current and new employees to access skills training, including upskilling currently employed workers through a micro-credential program known as RapidSkills. This had a two-fold effect of improving workers’ job competencies and productivity, and helping manufacturing businesses build talent capacity, motivate, and retain skilled employees.
The program also addressed current labour supply challenges by offering pre-employment supports, including soft-skills and mental health supports, together with specific foundational manufacturing competency-based skills training to individuals seeking new employment or a career change. RapidSkills program interventions encouraged job seekers to consider the wide range of opportunities in the manufacturing sector and helped them prepare for job applications, interviews, and moving into employment. Job seekers, workers at risk of job displacement, women, youth, persons with disabilities, racialized groups, Indigenous peoples benefited from the program as it empowered workers/job seekers who faced higher barriers of entry by providing enhanced pathways into meaningful employment.
There was difficulty in initially attracting new job seekers to manufacturing through the program despite various targeted efforts. To facilitate program uptake, training spots were set aside during the registration phases for each micro-credential, specifically to allow for job-seeker registration right up until the start date. The project team also connected with other local community and organizational partners, such as Ontario Works, Empower, Immigrant Partnerships and Employment Programs, UPlift Black Barrie, Metis Nation, and other cultural or religious groups. There were also strategic advertising campaigns to target groups and specific localities using local radio, roadside ads, and transit advertising, as well as social media ads and postings.
RapidSkills program satisfaction surveys were issued post-course to participants to gain their feedback on whether they felt their employability had improved. 148 respondents completed the survey and of those, 144 (97%) answered that the micro-credential they had taken did improve their industry and local labour market employability skills. The level of employer support, with 47 manufacturers engaging with the program, and the interest shown by individual employees and job seeking participants with 225 registrants and 210 project completions, has validated the need for manufacturing sector upskilling across Barrie and County of Simcoe.