The Brantford unemployment rate is 5.1 per cent, which is good news. But the mismatch in skills and jobs available is still an obstacle.
The latest numbers from Statistics Canada indicate Brantford’s unemployment rate decreased from 8.2 per cent in December 2012, according to Brant Jobs, and is lower than the provincial average of 7.9 per cent.
According to a 2013 report from the Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie (WPBGE) there is some improvement but much work still needs to be done.
The report suggests that the top 10 occupations show the growing division between lower and higher skilled jobs.
According to the report “a concentration of employment in lower skilled jobs such as retail, food and beverage servers, construction trade helpers, etc., suggests that many jobs are seasonal, part-time and lower-paying.”
Michelle Smith, a career services consultant at Career Link, has noticed an increase in retail jobs lately. Career Link recently hosted a job fair for Toys “R” Us at which 75 people were hired.
Nick Uvanile currently has a seasonal job in sewage repair in the Burlington area but said he’s “looking for something to keep up his income” during the off season.
“It’s hard to find work. I worked at Tim Horton’s [in Brantford] for two years but I want to find a decent paying job,” said Uvanile. “Personally, I have a hard time finding a job, and a lot of the people I talk to say they do.”
Kevin Creighton has spent three months looking for work. “I’ve been trying to get a career path going because I don’t like the fast food industry. I want to know I’m going somewhere and have a stable position at a company.”
There is a gap between the skills people have and the skills in demand due to the fast changing economy.
Brantford is seeing an increase of people completing post-secondary education, yet there are not enough jobs that meet these demands. At the same time, there are fewer jobs that require a grade 12 education or less.
The job demands are changing and as Halyk points out the job descriptions have changed significantly. For example, the manufacturing industry that previously did not require any formal training, is increasingly asking for certifications or at least a high school diploma.
Smith said that 54 per cent of her clients have completed grade 12 or less, and 45 per cent of her clients “lost their jobs due to the labour market changing.”
Some residents, however, don't worry about the changes in the market.
The WPBGE is one of 21 initiatives in Ontario of its kind, which brings all community members together and actively plan the labour market to address community needs.
Halyk said the advantage to having a local board is that they can “go out and talk to community members and bring them together in a planning function to address some the issues that arise. That doesn’t exist in any other capacity within the community.”
The current mismatch of skills and jobs is likely a transitional period for Brantford, moving from strictly the industrial to the service industry.