New survey data gleaned from the Sudbury and Manitoulin Districts paints a picture of a rapidly changing workforce across the region.
The Local Labour Market Plan, published annually by Workforce Planning for Sudbury and Manitoulin (WPSM), indicates that fallout from the global COVID-19 pandemic — along with changing demographics, the emergence of technology, and employees’ pursuit of work-life balance — are all affecting employers’ ability to fill their labour needs.
Reggie Caverson, WPSM’s executive director, said it’s “most definitely an employee market.”
“Employees can demand higher wages, and employers need to step up their game as there are not as many suitable candidates,” Caverson said.
There are a number of lingering impacts from COVID-19 that continue to impact the workplace, she noted.
That includes hybrid work arrangements, the impact on collective bargaining agreements and grievances, workplace vaccine mandates, and a loss of staff that left the industry — particularly retail and food/accommodation services — to look for other more steady and better paid work.
Founded in 1997, Workforce Planning for Sudbury and Manitoulin provides labour market information through research in order to support economic growth and development.
Its annual report pulls data from Statistics Canada, Taxfiler Data, Canadian Business Counts, and unemployment data.
The organization rounds out its report with responses from COVID business impact surveys, general hiring practice and recruitment strategies, and industry-specific surveys from the health, construction, and mining sectors.
According to Caverson, the data indicates businesses still need the small-business supports rolled out during the pandemic. Employers are faced with fewer candidates to hire, she noted, with employees demanding better wages and other job perks.
The report also indicates there are many hard-to-fill jobs available in construction, health care, trucking, retail, and skilled trades like plumbing and millwrights. In some cases, minimal support is available for those who want to enter these fields, especially when it comes to apprenticeships.
Entry-level positions are disappearing, which has allowed people with less experience to build skills while working, the report shows. On the other hand, employers shared their grievances about workers’ lack of soft and essential skills like work ethic, willingness to learn, math skills, and cursive writing.
Immigration has been highlighted as one of the solutions to an aging workforce, and programs such as the Sudbury Local Immigration Partnership and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Program were established to welcome and connect newcomers to employers.
However, many employers are still reluctant to hire newcomers, the report notes.
According to report data, over the last year, there has been an increase in zero-employee businesses, namely real estate, rental and leasing, with 2,890 businesses in the sector in Greater Sudbury. More people became landlords or Airbnb owners.
In addition to the real estate sector, the finance, insurance, and professional scientific technology sectors saw a high number of single owners.
The number of real estate businesses climbed in the Sudbury and Manitoulin Districts as well, while agriculture and construction were next in line for the most amount of growth.
An infographic points out that recruitment practices now rely on finding talent through word of mouth (81 per cent), but 75 per cent of business owners reported that there were not enough applicants. Of the applications they receive, 63 per cent lack skills for the position, employers said.
In the coming years, WPSM said, employers will need to focus on a few key areas: supporting local labour market-related initiatives; promoting current and forecasted in-demand skilled trades and professions; supporting labour market research, information, profiles and forecasts; and supporting alignment between training/education and industry needs.
The WPSM aligns these priorities each year based on the annual report.
“We have ongoing priorities each year, kind of like ‘buckets’ that we put our efforts into, both with what we lead and the stakeholders we support,” said Caverson.
The WPSM collaborates with a number of community partners including education and training, health and mental health, and business associations.