Furthermore, while only 18% of the current population in Canada lives in rural areas, research conducted by Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship predicts that rural areas will achieve rapid population growth in the coming years. As a result of COVID-19, employee and job seeker’s preferences are changing and Canadian’s are choosing greener spaces over big cities. This will foster rural communities with more diversity and lead to greater employment and training opportunities for the future of work.
Introduced by Florence Rousseau, Director, Marketing & Communications, Magnet and moderated by Chantal Brine, CEO, EnPoint, the event featured panelists:
We encourage you to check out the organizations listed above and watch the recording of the session to form your own opinion on what stands out for you.
Here is our summary of key takeaways from the session:
1. What comes to mind when you think about ‘building future ready communities’?
People are looking for connection to their community and opportunity to make an impact. Covid-19 has had such an aggressive impact across all communities, whether rural or urban. Every community has adapted in different ways, but what stood out in rural communities is people coming together to support one another and being strengthened because of and through the pandemic.
The pandemic created an opportunity to try new things, stretch outside comfort zones, and share knowledge and learnings. As a result it seems as though people want something—whether a hobby or career—they can feel attached to, something that is meaningful and that they can feel passionate about.
Demonstrating this trend, Brainstorm Strategy Group found that approximately 50% of students getting ready to graduate expressed that they wanted meaningful work experience above and beyond salary or compensation.
The pandemic connected us more than ever. We’ve all had to learn new technologies quickly due to remote work, but this has helped bring skill sets to rural communities, whether virtually or by allowing more people to live in rural communities.
The importance of focusing on identifying the gaps and seeking ways to train employees throughout the pandemic. From an employer’s perspective, there is more opportunity to provide training by leveraging technology to train more people virtually with fewer overhead costs and expenses.
On the other hand, barriers that were in place before the pandemic, such as access to a reliable internet connection and tools and resources, have been amplified during the pandemic. As an example, even in tight-knit communities such as that of the Inuit communities in Northern Canada, going remote in terms of leveraging technology and virtual opportunities has created challenges in engaging northern youth in programming.
2. What is the most memorable “success story” you’ve experienced when you think about how your organization/group has contributed to ‘building future ready communities’?
SOI Foundation’s Expedition to Community (E2C) program is a community based youth program across Inuit Nunangat. E2C worked with youth in the community to design programs for other youth in the community. Through inspiration, training, mentoring, and financial support, Local Community Coordinators and Local Youth Councils are given the tools to engage youth, elders, and key community leaders.
Six months into COVID-19, many youth voiced their concerns about missing out on opportunities such as funding, training, and resources such as webinars that required access to computers and the internet. An E2C coordinator recognized the importance of digital literacy and arranged access to computers, tablets and WiFi, and brought in a speaker to help these youth navigate and tap into amazing training programs.
The success of the E2C program inspired other communities to engage youth in developing digital literacy without having to leave their communities. This learning and sharing of knowledge from one community to the next helped create meaningful impact. In rural communities, opportunities are often not locally based, which creates additional difficulty and complexity for youth beginning their careers.
The Newfoundland Study and Stay Program supports international students who want to study and then continue to live in Canada, and are taking great steps to be able to do that. Mentorship is a key part of that program in helping international students build meaningful connections off-campus, in communities they want to live and work in post-graduation.
CBDC Emerald was provided training on equity, diversity and inclusion in 2022 and beyond. Understanding that we all have a role to play in making everybody feel welcome is a really important lesson, and is an essential component to attract the right skill sets, talent and entrepreneurs, and to create a sustainable future for all.
This was referenced as an important life-long learning need, particularly to and with organizations like CBDCs (and related organizations) who provide counsel and advice to entrepreneurs and employers.
Lessons Learned and Considerations for Future
Consider what we need to be thinking about to recruit and retain people in your communities, and to bring people back home.
A lot of employers face challenges finding skilled labour; the number of existing job opportunities and the number of people qualified to apply are not matching up.
With the increase in the number of people coming into rural communities in the last two years, there is new talent with skills that were not in the community before. There are also more people looking for upskilling and reskilling; for example, in Pictou, Nova Scotia, the forestry industry declined and workers needed to be upskilled in another area to obtain work.
The Nova Scotia government identified 11 functional economic zones in Nova Scotia based on identified areas of comparative advantage. NSCC has collaborated with MIT REAP teams on a one-year project with the goal of better understanding their functional economic region. The teams connected with entrepreneurs to better understand risk capital and what is getting in the way of success in the region, but what the teams reported was that they were having trouble identifying gaps because there was not enough data. A lesson learned was that they needed more data collection to understand what new programs would most benefit the region and achieve economic success.
The green economy tends to be focused on terrestrial activity, while the blue economy is the hydrosphere equivalent. While independent, green needs blue.
Most Inuit communities are in coastal areas, so there are more available job positions related to water, e.g. fishing. With new technology, new positions are becoming available, and a key success factor is providing opportunities for youth and for employers to understand what this means for them.
3. Any words of wisdom, calls to action, or questions for consideration you’d like to pose to our audience?
Break down the silos. There may be many organizations who are doing amazing, similar work, but are not communicating or taking the opportunity to collaborate.
Focus on the collective “we,” not just the “me” or the ego-driven individual organization approach. Talk to each other and learn from each other for the betterment of the community.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were set up to have communities collaborate to achieve the goals, and it’s important to take on that mindset to work towards something together.
Build partnerships to work with your communities because no one knows a community better than those that live in it. Looking at Inuit communities, you need to build in understanding and knowledge of traditional culture to effectively channel the funding and resources into initiatives that work best for that specific community.
Be proactive, not reactive; identify the gaps and understand what needs to be done in the recruitment process.
Broaden our definition of talent; for example, look at older individuals that have retired and are looking for diverse work opportunities, and tap into that demographic to address the shortage of labour. No one is too old to learn new skill sets; organizations like Community Futures help by providing training opportunities.
Consider different forms of entrepreneurship, such as social enterprise, where money and resources are put back into the community. CBDC Social Enterprise Loan has lower interest rates and helps support sustainable community development.
Most businesses start out by turning passion into profit, or by monetizing a skill set that you have. Don’t think that the market is too flooded. When someone is buying from you, they are buying from your personality and customer service and how you give back to them.
4. What would be your biggest piece of advice to individuals in Canada trying to start and/or advance their careers and navigate the future of work?
There is value in being brave and being vulnerable. It takes a lot of courage to move to a new community and say “this is what I want to do, I don’t know how to do it.”
Every rural community is different, and the resources available are different. Take advantage of provincial resources, such as the Nova Scotia Regional Enterprise Networks for advice, guidance, and connection to a mentor that can help you launch or advance your career.
Look for opportunities for customized programming to help expand into the avenue you want to grow into. NSCC has Community Innovation Leads (CIL), where organizations can reach out to CILs to create customized programs for attracting or upskilling talent.
Do your research and explore community, provincial, regional and/or national resources to help support your initiatives
For example, the Canada Job Grant has a provincial stream for each province and territory, and supports the upskilling of new and existing employees so that they can learn new skills and become more valuable to their organization.
Research and connect with people in your field of interest to learn more about what your potential career path could look like, and what is the best way to kickstart your career.
As an example, SOI Foundation’s Blue Futures Pathways PORT connects youth across Canada with education, employment (employers can post job positions), mentorship and funding opportunities to inspire and support them in developing successful careers in the Sustainable Blue Economy.
BONUS QUESTION 1: How do we create space in rural communities to attract, keep, and/or bring back talent?
Consider utilizing shared labour. Rural communities have many people who work hourly rates with large time gaps between shifts in various industries, e.g. those working in the mining industry who work 7 days on and 7 days off, so sharing the workforce between employers can benefit the whole region.
Employers need to offer not only wages, but also benefits and social activity.
An inclusive environment creates a place of belonging where employees wish to remain.
Create short-term or part-time commitments to include those that do not want to work full time or move permanently to rural areas.
The Nunavut Sivuniksavut program is dedicated to providing Inuit youth with the best possible post-secondary academic and cultural learning experiences. If youth have an interest in a job or career that does not exist in the community, the program helps them identify how they can return to their community and still have their dream job.
Audience Question: What are some of the barriers to accessibility faced by northern communities?
Covid-19 exacerbated existing issues to accessibility. Communities in Nunavut live in small spaces due to limited housing, which makes it difficult to get online and dedicate time to education.
Persons looking to get online to develop their skill sets face challenges with often unaffordable prices for internet access. Furthermore, the connection can be unreliable, due to a number of issues, including bad weather.
The location of opportunities also creates a barrier for individuals looking to pursue a career in certain fields, e.g. nursing, and they often have to leave rural areas.
Culture shock when entering an urban setting also poses a challenge as individuals need time to learn and adjust to the cultural differences.
A barrier faced by people who want to open businesses in small communities is that there is no physical location to place down roots, even if they have an idea or concept that would greatly benefit the community.
6. What are some resources, books, Ted Talks, or podcasts, that have been instrumental in shaping your view on the future of work?
What stood out from the discussion was the importance of learning from and with communities, and collaborating across sectors to work towards a shared goal. We need to be vulnerable, be brave, and be willing to put ourselves out there. We all have a role to play in terms of us being a part of a community, and we all need to do our part to make the community stronger. There is still work to do and lessons to be learned, but we are not alone.
Guiding discussion questions:
What steps have your organization and/or program taken to create opportunities and ensure that everyone can participate in the future world of work?
What benchmarks, success stories and/or resources discussed by the panelists can you adapt or apply to your organization and/or community?
What is one thing your organization is continuously iterating on to adopt or advance your use of technology?
What are some of the barriers to accessibility faced by rural communities, and how can you or your organization work with these communities to help overcome them?
Lynda joined SOI Foundation in 2019 where she provides leadership to the Alumni Team. She comes to SOI with experience in program development and team management as a former Manager of Youth Programs at Inuuqatigiit Inuit Centre. She is strongly connected with the Ottawa Inuit community and has worked mainly with Inuit youth. As an RCGS Fellow, Lynda dedicates her time both professionally and personally to promoting Inuit culture and advocacy for youth.
Launched in 2000, the SOI Foundation has led more than 35 expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctic and places in between. Each incredible journey raised the bar on their mission to engage youth, further their knowledge of the polar regions, increase diversity among our participants, and encourage cross-cultural collaboration to support a healthy and sustainable future.
Their vision for the future builds on their success in experiential learning and youth engagement to now develop new programs that include land-based, community-based, and virtual learning opportunities. Additionally, the SOI Foundation is broadening its support of youth beyond experiential learning to offer new opportunities and resources for mentorship, professional development and community service. Their goal is to inspire and foster sustainability leadership throughout every phase of their educational and professional development programs.
The SOI Foundation is now recognized globally as a leader in youth engagement, with a legacy focused on changing lives and the world.
With over 10 years of professional experience, Jennifer has honed her leadership, fundraising, and highly acute administrative skills. She brings her experience and expertise to her role as Executive Director for CBDC Emerald, a nonprofit organization that supports entrepreneurs in the creation of small businesses, as well as the expansion of existing businesses, by providing financial and technical services.
As the Executive Director for CBDC Emerald, Jennifer has been recognized for showing dedication, leadership and excellence in nonprofit support services. Honored for Excellence in Nonprofit Support Services, she contributes to the nonprofit sector through professional and philanthropic endeavors
CBDC Emerald is a not-for-profit community-based organizations run by volunteers from the local business community who firmly believe in improving the economic viability of their communities. Located throughout rural New Brunswick, the 10 CBDC offices are there to help potential and existing entrepreneurs living in rural communities access capital and other business resources. They are high risk niche lenders who do not compete with conventional lenders, but work with those entrepreneurs who have difficulty securing capital through traditional sources.
Becky is a Communications Associate at Nova Scotia Community College where she leads communications for One Nova Scotia and facilitates regional projects and partnerships for NSCC.
Joining the College in 2019, Becky has facilitated the development and delivery of MIT REAP Focus Nova Scotia, playing a central support to the five participating teams and backbone organization managing the project. In addition to her experience in communications and working with senior leadership and external stakeholders, Becky has a dedicated interest in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the role they have in providing all Nova Scotians with a greater quality of life.
When she’s not drafting communications and connecting with stakeholders, Becky can likely be found training for an upcoming run, or baking.
Nova Scotia Community College
Nova Scotia Community College is transforming the province. Through their network of 14 campuses, they provide Nova Scotians with inclusive and flexible access to education and the specialized, industry-driven training for today and tomorrow’s workforce.
NSCC believes the future of the province lies in the power of learning, which is why they care about the success of every student – in education, in career and in life.