A new study breaks down 10 “highly sought hard skills” in the Kawartha Lakes region – and Fleming College can teach most of them.
With Kawartha Lakes grappling with a high unemployment rate and low wages, this first-ever report of its kind shows a potential path forward for many who live in this area– if they get the right education and skills.
The report was produced by the Workforce Development Board (WDB) under the Local Employment Planning Council (LEPC) pilot. The report covers employment aspects related to Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County, Peterborough County and Haliburton County. In our last article on this theme we focused on the job and income challenges in Kawartha Lakes.
Since the report also talked about the hard skills that were needed, the Advocate contacted Fleming College to find out how many of these hard skills could be matched up though local post-secondary education opportunities.
The 10 highly sought hard skills in Kawartha Lakes in 2017 were:
- Quality Control
- Quality Assurance
- Food Preparation
- Freight +
- Inventory Control Systems
- Preventative Maintenance
- Technical Support
- Microsoft Office
Maxine Mann, dean, School of Business, Trades and Technology at Fleming, says there are three different kinds of education at Fleming:
- Traditional post-secondary classes that lead to diplomas to get specific skillsets.
- Continuing education courses that are short term, often evenings, or online, to get specific skills updates
- Contract training, where employers can band together who are each hoping to train one or two people in a specialized area, to create enough students to make a class.
“Blueprints and Code we teach in every single technology and trade program,” she says, addressing one of the top 10 in the list. Some of them are taught at Frost Campus in Lindsay. Blueprints, construction drawings, and methods are taught at both Peterborough and Lindsay campuses.
“Technical Support and Firewall (from the list) have a computer engineering technology school that teaches all of that,” she says, and Microsoft Office is across almost all programs.
“Many of these (in the top 10 list) are embedded in the programs we offer,” she says. “And many are reflected in part-time studies or continuing education.”
Mann says many of the continuing education courses are online, or mostly online, through Ontario Learn, a collection of shared online college courses from across North America. All 24 of Ontario’s publicly-funded colleges are a part of Ontario Learn. This education portal addresses many specific skill gaps.
She says some courses, like Hydronics System Design, was made for plumbers who want to take their skills to a higher level. It’s a hybrid course and requires the student to show up only on Fridays, with the rest online. Someone might even be working full-time, Mann says, but employers “usually give them their blessing because they want them to gain a skillset.”
There is faculty attached to every course at Fleming in case people are struggling, Mann adds.
“I think people underestimate what colleges offer. I also think people think of education in a traditional classroom model way, but that’s just not the only way we address needs anymore,” she says, referring to the flexibility of programs, including those online.
The dean says it’s important to know what the jobs of the future are, and they are largely in the technological, business, and health fields.
“No institution can serve everybody’s needs, though. The community has to work together to do this,” she adds.
About 44.3 per cent of residents in Kawartha Lakes have just their high school diploma or less education. (In 2016, 54 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 64 had either college or university qualification.)
- 13,095 in Kawartha Lakes have no certificate, diploma or degree at all, putting them at a disadvantage in an employment search.
- 20,340 have their high school diploma
- 6,205 people have an apprenticeship or trade certificate diploma
- 6,495 have a university certificate, diploma or degree.
The WDB report notes some specific issues that need to be tackled to address identified local labour market issues. This includes transportation, particularly in rural areas, which is a critical barrier for both job seekers and employees, as well as employers.
In the short term, the report recommends identifying the local communities in Ontario that are working on developing community-based solutions to address transportation and employment issues.
In the longer term, the report urges the testing of a pilot that addresses transportation issues in the communities that encompass our service area.
–with files from Joli Scheidler-Benns