On March 11, MCC President & CEO Chuck Davidson served as local co-host and panelist for the Virtual Regional Sounding Tour, an insightful discussion led by the Future Skills Centre and The Conference Board of Canada. This event built on the success of last year’s cross-country tour, and is designed to connect Canadians who are actively engaged in the skills and training community, as well as individuals interested in learning more about skills development and the future of work.
Manitoba’s RST offered a virtual opportunity to engage in conversation with FSC about what works—and what doesn’t—when it comes to skills development, with a particular focus on what lies ahead amid pandemic recovery. We started the afternoon with a panel discussion featuring contributions from Chuck on behalf of our business community, as well as expert contributions from RRC’s Vice-President Academic Christine Watson, UCN’s Rob Penner, and Lawrence Daniels of FireSpirit Inc, followed by open discussion and comments from all attendees.
In case you missed it, here are 5 themes and take-aways from the event:
1. Collaboration is key, between co-workers, across organizations, and in the community. Keeping connected is so important, and for some, it has been tough especially due to a large proportion of remote workers, many of whom were accustomed to working together in person previously. A large percentage of participants seemed to agree that a hybrid model of work-from-home and in the workplace would be the ideal for them and for their organizations. Many participants agreed that the movement of many services to the online world offers choice and benefits, and that clearly many processes we were once told could not be done, can be done.
2. We must continue building bridges between the business community, educational institutions, and the charitable sector. “Not-for-profit organizations have significant value to offer, particularly because we are so often already working to support those who are marginalized — and have been disparately marginalized by the pandemic.” Participants spoke about the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, Indigenous peoples, and the lower-skilled jobs/lower-paid segments of workers, as well as the importance of these groups and of immigration to recovery and the future labour market.
3. The CEO of a large construction company shared that the most significant challenge for his organization has been employee communication and maintaining team dynamics, a statement with which many agreed. But he also said that the pandemic has forced the company to look critically at their safety program and to examine its quality. “I suppose this has been one positive thing that has come out of the pandemic — in learning how to keep people safe, we have really had to analyze all aspects of our safety program, and that has been beneficial.”
4. Reskilling and recognition of prior learning (RPL) are going to be crucial to recovery according to the educators on the webinar. “We need to move quickly to get people re-trained as they return to work because some of the skills they need to succeed have changed. For instance, there are many hospitality sector employees who don’t yet have work to go back to. Maybe there is a place for them in the IT world, for example, if their interests and existing competencies allow, but we need to be able to assess for that.”
5. Work-integrated Learning is going to be critical, and we need learning and mentorship opportunities to take place earlier on in the process, or maybe even all the way through like an apprenticeship model. “Students who graduate from technical programs are very proficient, but they also need the so-called soft skills or employability skills.” These include capabilities like communication, collaboration, decision-making, emotional self-management, etc, and the participating educators said they often hear from employers that these are just as important to success in the workplace as technical knowledge.