What will the #FutureofWork look like in Canada? The phrase is on the lips, minds and fingertips of many Canadians, from millennials to mature workers, Indigenous People to immigrants, newcomers to seniorpreneurs.
More than 1,000 participants at the Cannexus18 national career development conference in Ottawa from January 21-24, 2018 also are critical voices in the conversation. The annual conference is organized by CERIC and supported by the Counselling Foundation of Canada, along with a broad range of supporting organizations, including CEDEC, and sponsors.
Cannexus is all about connection and discussion on all aspects of Canadian career and workforce development. It’s sparked by ideas, opinions, projects and opportunities shared by keynote speakers, social entrepreneurs, career development professionals, students, not-for-profits, coops, businesses and government agencies.
While the Future of Work is an important part of the discussion, professionals come seeking strategies and solutions to support their clients’ access to soft skills, training, and experiential learning.
Spotlight on Workforce Development shows importance to Career Development
The Workforce Development Spotlight, supported by CEDEC, brought together experts from industry and community, the IT and service sectors, and more, to share their perspectives among four panel discussions on
- developing the future workforce,
- implementing systems change,
- developing promising practices, and
- identifying policy changes when it comes to workforce development.
Shari St. Peter, Executive Director of the Niagara Peninsula Aboriginal Area Management Board (NPAAMB), a panelist in the Promising Practices and System Change in Practice discussions, works with youth aged 15 to 30 in communities across the Niagara region and provides foundational and soft-skills programs, training, and work experience opportunities.
St. Peter participated in several Cannexus sessions, including the Workforce Development Spotlight panel discussion on systems change in practice. Her fellow panelists included Fabio Crespin, United Way, Toronto and York Region; Matias De Dovitiis, Duke Heights Business Improvement Area and Andrew Reddin, NPower Canada. The panel was moderated by Mandi Abrams of Hospitality Workers Training Centre.
“It was an interesting group,” said St. Peter, adding, “the different perspectives were interesting.” Her main takeaway was the importance of “really being able to advocate as an organization with funders; being able to articulate the goals for your demographic.”
Demonstrating how soft skills enable youth to gain confidence and therefore see their place in the workforce is not always easy to measure. That’s where collaborating with umbrella organizations and partners helps NPAAMB to be heard.
“I am very aware of the limitations of community-based organizations to move the needle,” said St. Peter, due to the challenges of recruiting and engaging staff. “With the human resources issues and capacity, systems change becomes difficult,” she added.
For St. Peter, Cannexus is an important space for engaging in conversations and developing working groups to tackle “emerging needs”, including for those organizations that do not have provincial or regional affiliations that enable them to have a bigger voice.
In keeping with her mission, St. Peter brought NPAAMB’s eight youth advisors, aged 16 to 28, to Cannexus to enable them to experience the wealth of innovative ideas and meet professionals outside of their community.
Soft Skills a great match with training opportunities
Also in the Promising Practices panel, Cannexus first-timer Mike Hewitt shared a successful initiative of the Quinte Economic Development Commission (QEDC) Manufacturing Resource Centre (MRC) in Ontario, the Elevate Plus program, funded through SkillsAdvance Ontario.
“The program works as well as it does because there is an intensive hour-long interview at the start that gets to the heart of the matter on why the person really wants the program,” said Hewitt. “Once in the program the instruction develops soft skills while teaching relevant technical skills. The integration is important because it makes the soft skills relevant to specific situations. This helps reinforce the importance of these skills.”
In effect, NPAAMB partners with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to enable Aboriginal youth to work on building homes, learn skills and make informed choices on their potential future career.
Brinkhurst is seeking best practices and wants to know how we can build training opportunities into our education and adult learning programs.
“We cannot continue to assume these competencies will just form in people,” said Brinkhurst. “If anything, the evidence suggests they do not. At Futureworx, we are trying to build a national consensus effort and welcome those who wish to participate in such an effort.”
CERIC Team drives innovation at Cannexus once again
In addition to the opportunity to engage in a broader dialogue, part of what draws participants and supporting organizations to Cannexus each year is innovation. The Social Enterprise Career Marketplace featured a host of local organizations that produce and sell products as part of training and employment initiatives. The Exhibitor Showcase hummed with ingenious displays and engaging presenters with solutions and program successes to sell and share.
In addition, CERIC launched three new publications: Bridging Two Worlds: Supporting Newcomer and Refugee Youth, Computing Disciplines: A Quick Guide for Prospective Students and Career Advisors, and The Early Years: Career Development for Young Children.
A final innovation that brought things full circle was CERIC’s collaboration with Challenge Factory, Creative Connections and Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation (OCWI-COIE) to engage its community of participants in dynamic discovery. This led to capturing some of the conversation through a mural on the National Conversation about the Future of Work. Watch Challenge Factory President Lisa Taylor explain the project on Day one.