Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

It has become an all too familiar scenario for many small businesses: a potential employee doesn’t show up for the interview or a new employee, perhaps after a single day or a few weeks, suddenly disappears, never to be heard from again.

 

For businesses already struggling with labour shortages, the phenomenon of ‘ghosting’ has grown into a real challenge as our economy continues to rebuild.

 

“The last time we checked, we had about 30% participation in live interviews,” says Mike Black, owner/operator of Valet Car Wash in Cambridge and eight other locations. “I’m also finding that many people go onto Indeed and apply to dozens of job postings and they have no idea why you are even contacting them because they have so many irons in the fire and are just picking and choosing.”

 

He’s not alone in this regard. According to a survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 37% of small business owners who responded said they have had potential hires suddenly disappear without explanation, while one out of three who’ve hired someone during the last year either had that employee not show up their first day or had them stop coming in shortly after being hired.

 

While salary is a clear motivator for many job seekers, Mike also believes there has been a cultural ‘shift’ as opposed to just an economic one in terms of how people currently look for work.

 

“There almost seems to be a complete lack of courtesy and respect for others,” he says, noting the adage ‘never burn a bridge’ no longer seems to apply.

 

Janice McVey, Manager Partner at the Dean Group which specializes in employment recruitment, says the fact there are so many jobs available and that accountability no longer seems to be there when it comes to referencing, are a few of the key factors.

 

“It used to be that having a good job reference was important and not having one used to be a real impediment,” she says. “Now, again with unemployment so low and good people hard to find, companies are lowering the bar. The job candidate understands that lack of investment from the client’s perspective, so it becomes a bit of a two-way street.”

 

Janice says conducting a short Zoom interview may not necessarily win over a potential employee and make them feel invested enough to sign on.  However, she acknowledges that most companies also no longer have the luxury due to staff shortages to properly acclimate a new employee –spending additional time on training or introducing them to all their co-workers - because they need them to start working immediately.

 

“As a result of tightening up the interview process, they actually lose that ability to truly engage somebody in the role and therefore they can lose them,” says Janice, noting ‘A list’ companies that offer higher salaries and benefits tend to have fewer ghosting issues. “I think what it boils down to is there are too many options out there and therefore people do not worry about not finding a job when they need one.”

 

To help combat this, she encourages her clients to really promote why a person should want to work for them.

 

“You have to make sure what you’ve got to offer is what the candidate is really looking for. You as an employer, have to be clear on why people want to work for your organization,” says Janice. “Because now, they’re interviewing you more than you’re interviewing them.”

 

And if the candidate accepts the job but there is a concern they could soon be looking elsewhere, she recommends reminding them why they accepted the job in the first place.

 

“What was their motivation; if money was the reason, you’re never going to keep those people because they’re going to go to the next guy who pays them more,” says Janice. “I think you’ve got to make sure you’re lining up what it is you’ve got to offer with what it is an individual is looking for.”

 

Mike agrees noting potential employees are paying much closer attention to a company’s core values and how it projects itself, especially online.

 

“You are definitely selling yourself more today,” he says, adding that communication is vital, especially during the initial interview process and explains how his company keeps in close touch with a potential employee once contact has been made.

 

“We stay in constant touch with that candidate, reminding them about the interview and confirming the date and time,” says Mike, adding they have had great success with video interviews which can also lead to an in-person meeting depending on the position they’re trying to fill.

 

Also, he says that close communication continues for the first few months after a new person has been hired.

 

“You really need to build a relationship that makes them feel welcomed and appreciated, and make sure they have everything they need,” says Mike. “You also have to be aware of how your employees are interacting with your new hires because they can play a major factor on whether they will stay or leave. It only takes a couple of bad apples to taint someone.”

 

Janice agrees, explaining leveraging your internal network can help an organization retain new employees.

 

“Your best salespeople as a good organization are your current employees,” she says, adding the pandemic has made the work of HR departments even harder. “I’m afraid the downside is they haven’t been able to do some of things that helped with engagement of candidates like they used to.”

 

When it comes to recruitment, Mike has purposely entrusted that responsibility to someone else in his organization.

 

“If it’s not something you’re comfortable with, you really have to delegate it to someone who is,” he says, adding each January his company also does an analysis of its turnover rate during the previous year. “We compare it with previous years to see if we’re getting better or worse. If we’re getting worse, then we really need to look at why and look at solutions as to why that rate when up.”

 

 

Employment turnover at a glance:

 

  • More than one-third of Canadian companies (35%) say employee turnover has increased compared to last year, a significant rise from the nearly a quarter (24%) who said the same thing in 2021.
  • According to the survey, employee turnover costs companies an average of over $41,000 each year (including the cost to rehire, lost productivity and more). Those costs are even higher for some employers, with more than 1 in 10 hiring managers (16%) reporting $100,000 or more per year in turnover expenses.
  • For companies with increased turnover this year, the main causes identified include better pay and/or benefits offered elsewhere (36%), employees resigning (35%), employees feeling overworked (33%), retirements (30%), increased workplace demands (29%) and better perks elsewhere such as summer Fridays and unlimited vacation days (28%).
  • Two-thirds of companies agree that employee turnover places a heavy burden on existing employees (64%). This is especially the case with large employers with 100 or more employees (75%) compared to small businesses with fewer than 10 employees (50%). With the added complexity of the current labour shortage, companies are having to lean heavily on their current employees.

 

•    Info provided by The Harris Poll commissioned by Express Employment Professionals

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The weather may be colder, but things are heating up fast when it comes to the winter tourism season in Waterloo Region.

 

In fact, tourism spending in Canada in general is expected to recover quicker than anticipated according to Destination Canada’s latest tourism outlook which is predicting a return to 2019 levels by 2024, up from 2025 as predicted last spring. As well, the report indicates Canada’s tourism sector could generate more than $142 billion by 2030 which represents a 35% growth over the next decade.

 

This doesn’t come as a surprise to Explore Waterloo Region CEO Michele Saran, noting that domestic travel has recovered much quicker than international visits.

 

“When you’re talking about Waterloo Region, keeping in mind we receive 96% of our visitations from the GTA, we expect to be fully recovered here to 2019 levels by 2023,” she says. “In fact, we’re almost there now.”

 

Michele credits this local rebound not only on a growing pent-up demand for travel opportunities following pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, but the fact the region has so much to offer.

 

“When you talk about the winter season, in Waterloo Region we always do quite well,” she says. “Interestingly, I’ve never seen a destination that doesn’t take a hit at this time of year except for us, and Christmas really seems to be our ‘thing’.”

 

Michele credits the numerous holiday festivals and activities for providing a major boost to our local tourism and hospitality sector, including Cambridge’s ‘Winterfest’ which offers numerous events and displays until the end of the month, Kitchener’s recent ‘Christkindl Market’ and KWFamous ‘Holiday Pop-Shoppe’, as well as Bingemans’ ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and ‘Gift of Lights’ events.

 

“Everybody (tourism operators) seems very positive about this season,” she says. “And we’ve been doing our Road Trip campaign for the last few months on social media, and we’ve been talking about winter and amplifying all the fabulous things you can do within an easy drive of our target market.”

 

Besides Christmas activities, Michele says Waterloo Region is loaded with a variety of winter attractions such as Chicopee which should be welcoming skiers and tubers soon, as well Shades Mills Conservation Area in Cambridge for walking and cross-country skiing.

 

As well, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada has once again started its plant tours, which provide an inside look at its Cambridge facility via a motorized tram.

 

“Also, St. Jacobs and Elmira are always beautiful and magical places to visit in the winter,” she says, adding Explore Waterloo Region has been encouraging people to utilize the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit. 

 

The credit, which expires at the end of the month, allows Ontario residents to claim 20% of their eligible 2022 accommodation (cottage, hotel, or campground) expenses up to $1,000 as an individual or $2,000 if you spouse, common-law partner, or children, to get back up to $200 as an individual or $400 as a family.

 

“We’re actually lobbying as an industry to keep the tax credit in place for next year as well,” says Michele. “As you know, we were the first industry hit and the hardest hit and the last to recover, so we would love to keep this value added as part of our marketing arsenal.”

 

In terms of any potential threat from what has been dubbed as the ‘tripledemic’ (Flu, RSV and COVID-19), she remains optimistic that local tourism operators are prepared.

 

“I think everyone in the tourism industry is really good at listening to public health recommendations, and because our industry was the first hit, we’ve had to create all different types of scenarios about how to open safely and serve the public,” says Michele. “We’ve become really good at it and have a lot of practice.”

 

Visit Explore Waterloo Region to learn more.

 

A few things to check out:

  • Cambridge Winterfest – runs until Dec. 31 and features light installations and a variety of events in all three downtown cores.
  • Bingemans - Jingle Bell Rock, runs until Jan. 7 and outdoor light displays, surrounding a 40-foot dancing tree illumination. Gift of Lights runs until Dec. 31. Drive through holiday light display featuring over 300 animated and static light displays.
  • KWFamous Holiday Pop-Shoppe - Until Dec. 30 featuring more than 80 local makers and creators taking part at shop located across from Kitchener City Hall.
  • Jakobstettel – Celebrates 170 Years of St. Jacobs, featuring a series of events until Dec. 18.
  • The City of Waterloo hosts  Winterloo on Jan 28, 2023
  • Toyota Plant Tour – a 90-minute tour of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada’s Cambridge facility. Tours currently run Monday to Wednesday.
  • Chicopee 

 

*  With files from the Toronto Star    

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Since the late 2000s, Black Friday has become a retail staple in Canada surpassing the traditional Boxing Day sales as the most popular annual sale in this country.

 

Initially, the term ‘Black Friday’ can be traced back to 1869 when two Wall Street financiers attempted to purchase all of America’s gold to pump up its value. Their play for the gold failed, however, the term stuck and eventually more than 100 years later became associated with sales when retailers began noting they were ‘in the black’ as soon as Christmas shopping started.

 

“It has become another one of those consumer ritual occasions and from a buyer/retailer perspective it is now a key point on the calendar we all start to strategize for leading up to and following,” says Brad Davis, Associate Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, who specializes in consumer behaviour and trends.

 

However, despite the ‘ritual’ aspect of shopping on Black Friday (Nov. 25) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 28), experts expect sales this year won’t be as brisk as in years past.

 

“Most of the signs indicate kind of a suppression of general sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” says Brad, adding sales in 2021 were down by about 7% compared to the previous year. “I think last year we had this post pandemic burst of saved money and a desire by consumers to let loose. But it’s sort of settling back now into more normalcy because people have got it out of their systems.”

 

Factor in supply chain issues and the cost of inflation affecting consumers’ decisions, and Brad says the outcome could hold some surprises.

 

“There’s a lot of interesting question marks about consumers’ mood and are they going to be naturally a little more reticent to do impulse purchases because of inflation, rising prices and just general worry,” he says. “However, the flipside of that is anything that states: ‘regular retail on sale’ and consumers respond to it. They may be more susceptible to respond to that kind of pitch because they are worried about rising prices and think this is an opportunity to get stuff ‘at a deal’.”

 

Brick-and-mortar stores versus online shopping

 

“We saw online sales trending up before the pandemic and I’ve always said the pandemic and the response to it didn’t change anything, it just dramatically sped up existing trends,” says Brad, noting how much more ‘comfortable’ people are with ordering online for many items.

 

Not surprisingly in 2020 when things were locked down, Black Friday sales grew by 31% compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels. And even with stores being reopened in 2021, Black Friday and Cyber Monday ecommerce sales still rose by 11.9% the whole month of November.

 

“Cyber Monday was actually starting to encroach, if not beat, Black Friday anyway before the pandemic in terms of popularity,” says Brad, adding the concepts of ‘Black Friday Month’ or ‘Cyber Monday Week’ have become more of reality now that larger retailers like Amazon and Target have implemented earlier sales.

 

However, when it comes to in-person shopping he says the tactile experience of going into a store remains a social exercise many consumers will continue to crave.

“We are still, by nature, two million old hunters and gatherers. We just do it in malls now,” jokes Brad. “I think we’re always going to have the need for physical retail.”

 

 

Supply chain and demand

 

Fear of shipping delays last year prompted many consumers to start their holiday shopping earlier on, and experts believe that has continued this year fueled by soaring gas prices plus global shipping complications.

 

Anecdotally, Brad says he’s heard that some categories of electronics are now very difficult for retailers to have in their inventory in effort to pull off some of the major deals they once offered on Black Friday.

 

“If you can’t physically get the stuff, what is that going to do if you want provide longer hours at your store?”

 

At the same time, he says some retailers may have higher volumes of inventory they are trying to clear out.

 

“You may not be seeing deals across the board anymore but instead, seeing a weird patchwork effect of deals going on as a direct reflection of what we have been going through,” says Brad.

 

Advice for business owners

 

When it comes to navigating Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Brad urges business owners to not get caught up in the ‘hype’ surrounding these shopping events.

 

“Make sure you do your due diligence and make sure you are making smart decisions and not just for that day, but a period of time,” he says, explaining trying to clear out too much inventory may lead to cashflow trouble down the line as consumers stock up on items and wait several months before spending again. “Don’t get caught up in the hype. You need to sit down and rationally look at the numbers to see if you need to clear out that inventory.”

 

* With files from the National Post and Calashock Commerce

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Quiet quitting, thanks to viral posts on social media, has become a term very familiar in workplaces worldwide.

 

It describes the phenomenon of employees who no longer go above and beyond by doing only what is expected in effort to maintain jobs that may no longer interest or inspire them.

 

This disengagement from work has grown exponentially since the pandemic. In fact, the 2022 State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup shows only 21% of employees are engaged at work.

 

“We’ve come through such a crisis over the last couple of years. To some extent, I think we’re over it now, but it has forced people to make different decisions about work, especially if they were burnt out already,” says Frank Newman, CEO of Newman Human Resources Consulting, who will explore quiet quitting at a Cambridge Chamber of Commerce webinar Dec. 1 entitled Is Your Team Quietly Quitting?

 

He will not only touch on some of the top reasons why employees quietly quit as well as the warning signs but provide insight on how employers can alter their work environment so they can not only attract but, more importantly, retain employees.

 

“You want to make sure you create the best work environment as possible,” says Frank, acknowledging the existence of an “employees’ market” due to labour shortages.  “That really means taking a very critical look at your work environment. Do you know what people need? Is it benefits? Is it better management? This is the ideal time to do an employee survey or workplace assessment to provide you with some sort of tool you can use to get a fix in terms of what are you going to fix first.”

 

He says this process may not prove to be a comfortable experience for some workplaces, however, insists this information can go a long way in assisting an organization set benchmarks regarding branding, image or even compensation.

 

“There are so many changes happening right now and if you don’t understand where you’re going or where you’re at, it’s pretty hard to make any progress,” says Frank.

 

He also recommends employers conduct exit interviews, formally or informally, to get a sense of why an employee has decided to leave.

 

“Make sure you understand what people are feeling. Also, spend some time with your newest employees and ask them what attracted them to your organization.”

 

Frank says in the age of social media, it’s important to encourage people who leave to remain an ambassador for the organization adding that bad reviews tend to get more traction than good ones.

 

“Organizations need to think about that as they manage those who are quietly quitting and those who suddenly walk out the door,” he says. “I always encourage my clients to search various job boards to see what’s being said about them.”

 

Frank admits it’s a tough time to be a manager right now, noting that employees have become much more critical on how their companies are managed than they were in the past.

 

“People looking for work have so many options out there now, and if you’re a hiring manager, it’s putting more pressure on management to get work done with less resources,” he says, noting the difficulty this causes employees who are now required to pick up the slack due to staffing shortages.

 

However, Frank says he’s optimistic as the economy continues to readjust following the pandemic there will be less quiet quitting.

 

“As companies get smarter in managing their businesses and people, I think you’ll see less of that," he says.

 

Work Trends Facts:

  • Burnout is a big risk in the workplace, especially amongst younger Gen Z professionals aged in their 20s, research shows. A survey of 30,000 workers by Microsoft showed 54% of Gen Z workers are considering quitting their job.
  • In its 2021 Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum ranks “youth disillusionment” as eighth of 10 immediate risks. Findings include deteriorating mental health since the start of the pandemic, leaving 80% of young people worldwide vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and disappointment.
  • Workforce data from organizations including McKinsey & Company suggests 40% of the global workforce are looking to quit their jobs in the next three to six months.

Source: World Economic Forum website

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Following a barrage of pandemic lockdowns and closures, restaurants in Canada are still not out of the woods, despite the fact mask mandates have long since been lifted and life has seemingly returned to ‘normal’.

 

According to a recent report from Restaurants Canada, over the past year restaurant closures have outpaced openings by 43% and inflation-adjusted food service sales will be around 11% below 2019 levels by the end of this year. The report also indicates traffic in full-service outlets is down nine per cent, and approximately down five per cent for quick service ones. However, according to the report sales could still surpass the $100 billion mark, which is encouraging.

 

But getting to that level could be difficult say restaurant owners, taking into consideration ongoing labour shortages and supply chain issues.

 

“If I were to sum up state of the industry in one word, it would be ‘tired’, especially for independently owned and operated restaurants like my location,” says David Kroeker, owner of Zoup! on Hespeler Road in Cambridge. “It’s been a struggle and it’s kind of come in waves as well.”

 

Matt Rolleman, co-owner of Thirteen at the corner of Water and Main streets in Galt, agrees and wonders what the impact COVID-19 will have in the next few months, especially for the Christmas bookings he already has in place.

 

“In the back of my mind and for a lot of business owners in general is we’re hoping there won’t be another wave like before,” says Matt, noting he’s optimistic vaccines and boosters will lessen the severity of any potential impact. “But it might be a wave of staffing issues with staff getting sick with COVID. I think we’re still in this really precarious situation and are worried about COVID-19, even though people are treating things like it’s all back to normal.”

 

Staffing levels an issue

 

When it comes to current staffing levels, restaurants nationwide are finding that retaining staff continues to be a major hurdle. Restaurants Canada estimates the sector has had between 150,000 and 170,000 vacant positions for some time and currently employs 271,000 fewer people prior to when the pandemic hit in 2019. This has resulted in many restaurants to alter the way they operate, perhaps opening fewer days a week or closing earlier.

 

“Staffing retention is a huge thing right now that all businesses, and especially restaurants, have to look at,” says Matt. “But restaurants are pretty much drawing from a very similar pool of people and there’s all these restaurants vying for the limited staff that’s available.”

 

David agrees and says even the recent minimum wage hike to $15.50 won’t really help the situation.

 

“At the end of the day we’re not helping our employees because everyone is jacking up their prices and everything is costing more,” he says. “It’s a vicious circle.”

 

Supply chain problems

 

Like most restaurant operators, David says supply chain issues also remain a big concern. As prices on the menu increase with inflation, the number of food choices has decreased in some restaurants resulting in them offering only a few dishes on any given day to provide more predictability for the back-of-house staff.

 

“The supply chain has essentially fallen apart in my opinion,” says David. “I spend at least five to 10 hours a week just looking for alternative products so we can keep a full menu.”

 

He says customers service has remained his No. 1 priority and says it can be difficult having to explain to patrons about the challenges he faces if something they order is not available.

 

“I’m so grateful for our client base because 99% of our customers are absolutely fantastic and they get it,” says David, adding the solution needs to come from all levels of government, especially when it comes to custom issues at the border.

 

“At our distribution centre there is so much backlog right now they have to make reservations for trucks to show up to receive goods,” he says, noting the Bank of Canada’s decision to increase the prime lending rate to combat rising inflation and the Province of Ontario’s minimum wage increase are working against businesses.

“It’s different levels of government not working together, and they are actually impacting the long-term situation in Ontario,” says David.

 

Impacted by loans

 

Like many restaurant operators, both he and Matt utilized the Canada Emergency Business Account during COVID-19 and while that may have assisted during the cycle of lockdowns and re-openings, they worry about the overall financial impact.

 

“We took on some stuff that we never would have done before,” says Matt, adding business was ‘rolling’ before the pandemic. “I had never planned on taking those extra loans. There’s a lot of businesses that have taken on loans so hopefully when winter hits we don’t see a big recession because it’s going to be hard on a lot of businesses.”

 

He says having Main Street closed to traffic during the summer was great for his outdoor patio and is optimistic that come next year people will continue to look at staying closer home due to higher costs.

 

However, Matt expects that people’s dining habits will change.

 

“Restaurants are a luxury. I’m anticipating that people who dine out once a week may switch to once a month, and those who come once a month might switch to once every two or three months,” he says, adding there is little that restaurant operators can do when it comes to combatting supply chain issues and rising interest rates. “It’s a little daunting for sure.”

 

  •  With files from Troy Media
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The cumulative energy of Chambers nationwide took the spotlight at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s recent CCEC Conference and AGM in Ottawa.

 

More than 400 delegates representing Chambers from across Canada gathered Oct. 12-15 in our nation’s capital to brainstorm and attend presentations pertaining to a variety of issues to help these organizations assist businesses. These included everything from generating revenue ideas and the importance of digital transformation, to promoting advocacy and promoting staff growth to create more impact in helping to recruit Chamber Members. As well, the AGM featured several interesting panel discussions and guest speakers, among them U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen who outlined the importance of business relations between the two countries and potential hurdles, as well as John Graham, President and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

 

 

 

“The calibre of the discussion at the CCEC (Chamber of Commerce Executives of Canada) and AGM is always top-notch and provides the Chamber network with new ideas that can go a long way in helping our Members succeed,” says Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher, who received a special nod of recognition from Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty during his opening remarks at the AGM for his work in creating the pilot rapid antigen screening kit program for businesses. To date, Mr. Beatty said the program has resulted in the distribution of more than 10 million kits to businesses nationwide.

 

During his address, Mr. Beatty touched on current labour and supply chain concerns facing communities nationwide and the importance of the Chamber network in developing growth minded policies to assist the economy to flourish.

 

“Growth doesn’t just happen spontaneously, it takes planning,” he said, noting the value and strength contained within the Chamber network to implement change. “Nationwide, Canadian Chambers are fighting for Canadian businesses.”

 

Policies helping businesses

 

This year, 61 policy resolutions were up for debate in a variety of categories including agriculture, international affairs, human resources, transportation, natural resources and environment, and finance and taxation.

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce's policy calling for the creation of a more equitable tax distribution plan to assist Canadian municipalities was among 53 approved by delegates. Our policy calls for the review of current funding mechanisms to ensure municipalities can fund their needs, including physical and social infrastructure to set the stage for economic recovery in communities, which in turn is good for local businesses. Besides carrying the lion’s share of Canada’s public infrastructure funding, municipalities have continued to face additional pressures surrounding a myriad of issues including housing, public transit, public safety, the opioid crisis, telecommunications and broadband, to name just a few.

 

“Our policy calls for all levels of government to sit down at the same table to work out a fairer tax distribution plan to meet the needs of Canadians and formulate local solutions that will help businesses succeed,” says Greg. “Having the backing of the Canadian Chamber network can go a long way to create positive results in the right direction.”

 

The approved policies now become part of the Canadian Chamber’s policy ‘playbook’ in its efforts to advocate for change.

 

To learn more about our advocacy and policy work, visit https://bit.ly/3ez63vZ.

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When the first students arrive for class in September at Conestoga College’s skilled trades campus, they will quickly discover a unique learning environment.

 

“It’s going to be a living lab,” says Suzanne Moyer, Conestoga Dean of Trades and Apprenticeships, describing the 322,000-square-foot state-of-the art learning facility taking shape at the former site of motorhome manufacturer Erwin Hymer on Reuter Drive. “The infrastructure is such that areas are exposed so that students can see how the building was built. You can walk into a classroom and actually see the duct work.”

 

Suzanne says the building, the first part of a multi-phase plan for the campus to house all of Conestoga’s skilled trades programs, has been designed with a very ‘open and visible’ concept towards learning with 150,000-square-feet of space dedicated to shops and labs.

 

“There are lots of windows so if you’re walking through the building, you can see what’s happening in the shops and other students can also see what’s going on,” she says, noting the campus will heighten the college’s successful approach of providing hands-on and practical learning. “Conestoga College has always been an advocate for skilled trades and in the last 15 years or so, we’ve really grown the amount of programming we have in the skilled trades.”

 

The timing for this major move couldn’t be more critical since the need for skilled trade workers only continues to increase in Canada, with a potential shortage of 60,000 workers expected by 2025. Currently, an analysis of 56 high-demand trade sectors nationwide indicates a shortage of approximately 10,000 skilled trades workers – which could be as high as 100,000 if all 250 regulated trades in Canada are considered. As well, the federal government says approximately 700,000 trade workers in Canada are likely to be retired by 2028.

 

“In part, we’re definitely responding and aware of that need both regionally, provincially and federally,” says Suzanne, noting a key goal was to consolidate the programs currently offered among the college’s seven campuses at one central location. “With that you get more efficiencies, and you also get all the students in different trades working more closely together. There are many positive things that will come out of this by having everyone located in one area.”

 

She admits there have been hurdles, including the pandemic, supply chain issues and labour disruptions, that delayed the project after Conestoga College purchased the site in 2019.

 

“But we’ve continued to adjust and amend the schedule and work our way through,” says Suzanne. “For example, our HVAC, millwrighting and electro-mechanical programs were supposed to move into the building in September but now they are going to move in next spring and be ready for students in September 2023.”

 

However, this September the new campus will become home to several of Conestoga College’s many skilled trades programs, including electrical, plumbing, machining, carpentry apprenticeship, as well as its one-year multi-trade program which allows students to sample four trades.

 

“The students are very excited because it will be a new and full-service campus,” says Suzanne, referring to the features provided which include a library, food services, counselling services, academic supports, and student success advisors.

 

She says the timeline for when the rest of the campus will be developed depends on funding. The first phase has come with a price-tag of $110 million.

 

“A lot of factors play in to all that. But we definitely have the space to grow,” says Suzanne, referring to the 42-acre site.

 

She notes the reaction from the business community has also been very positive and says Conestoga College welcomes any opportunity for partnerships.

 

“We have all kinds of opportunities to partner together. We work with organizations to make sure it is a good partnership,” says Suzanne, adding financial and in-kind donations are important but there are other ways businesses can be involved. “For those not in the financial position to donate, we have program advisory committees for every one of our programs where members of industry provide us with guidance in terms of what’s needed in industry from our graduates.”

 

She says these committees meet twice a year and provide valuable input to ensure Conestoga College is offering the best programming possible.

 

“We’re always looking for volunteers to serve on our advisory committees and work with us to ensure our graduates are industry ready.”

 

To find out more, visit Conestoga College Skilled Trade Campus.

 

Drawing supplied by WalterFedy/Moriyama & Teshima Architects

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The number of employees returning to their workplaces has been steadily increasing since the start of the year, according to stats recently published in the Globe & Mail. However, as the months pass not all may be thrilled with the notion of going back to the office.

 

“We are hearing mixed reviews about returning to work and that has to do with both employee preference as well as the expectations that businesses put in place prior to the pandemic,” says Peninsula Canada Account Manager Victoria Vati, adding that if a business didn’t have a working from home policy in place prior to COVID-19 not many put one in place when staff began staying home. “This created confusion for staff who have been productively working from home for the last year or two, and now they are expected to return. Many of them feel as though it is not necessary to be there in-person and are pushing back.”

 

Victoria, an HR expert, says it’s imperative that workplaces ensure they have something in writing outlining what the expectation is for employees when it comes to returning to the workplace.

 

“It can be tricky to navigate this area completely,” she says, noting that some businesses have found it more lucrative to have employees work from home removing the financial need for physical office space. “Others may opt for a hybrid solution because they have the resources to accommodate and support both in-house and remote workers.”

 

When it comes to hybrid working, the JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle) Workforce Preferences Barometer report released in June notes that from among just over 4,000 office workers surveyed in 10 countries – including Canada - this type of work model was expected by 60% of respondents, with 55% already utilizing a hybrid approach.

 

The report also indicated that 73% of these office workers are going into the office at least once a week, an increase of 5% compared to March of 2021.

 

To ensure a hybrid model works, the report states that six out of 10 employees expect to be supported with technology and financial assistance for expenses linked to remote work and outlines the need for a ‘holistic’ approach to management since 25% of those surveyed felt isolated from colleagues, with 55% stating they missed the social interactions of the workplace.

 

“Many employees are mentally, physically and emotionally drained from the last two years,” says Victoria, adding that many employers are also feeling ‘burned out’ trying to juggle the day-to-day issues of operating a business amid financial worries and ongoing labour shortages. “The burnout is a little different for them, but they are facing it as well.”

 

She says not overworking their employees and themselves is very important.

 

“Employee retention right now is key for all employers. It is important for employers to provide support to their staff in as many ways as they possibly can. If an employee now suffers from anxiety due to the pandemic and would like to work from home on certain days, the employer has an expectation to (within reason) explore options to assist that employee. If remote working is not possible, then providing the employee with resources and guidance on where to turn to for help is also very important.”

 

Working for an employer that focuses on their health has become very important to many, as outlined in the report which states 59% of employees expect to work for a company that supports health and wellbeing and now rank them as the second biggest priority, after quality of life and before salary.

 

“It is important for employers to evaluate and understand the needs of the business and weigh the pros and cons of remote working,” advises Valerie, noting the recent implementation of Ontario’s ‘Right to Disconnect’ legislation is a great way to build transparency and trust in these changing work environments. “By enforcing this and educating staff on what their rights are, employers can create a culture of excellence and finding what works for both the business and staff.”

 

Visit Peninsula Canada for more information.

 

 

At a glance (Source: JLL Workforce Preferences Barometer)

  • Hybrid work has reached an ‘optimal point’ – 60% of office workers want to work in hybrid style today and 55% are doing so already (These figures were about 63% and 50% a year ago).
  • 55% of employees alternate between different places of work every week (+5% vs. March 2021).
  • 73% of office workers are going to the office at least once a week (+5% vs. March 2021).  26% exclusively in the office.
  • Six in 10 employees expect to be supported with technology and financial assistance for expenses linked to remote work. Less than four in 10 currently benefit from these types of initiatives.
  • Enabling hybrid work shows your people that you are flexible and empathetic employer – This workstyle is especially appreciated by managers (75%), Gen Z (73%) Gen Y (69%) and caregivers (66%).
  • Only 48% of the workforce believe that their company is a great place to work today.
  • 38% would like to work in an office that is designed sustainably.
  • 27% could leave their employer because they do not share the values promoted by their company.
  • 59% of employees expect to work in a company that supports their health and wellbeing. This is now ranked as the second priority at work, after quality of life and before salary.
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The fallout from the Rogers outage continues to be tallied even as Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne prepares to appear before a parliamentary committee sometime this month to answer questions regarding this nationwide disruption that cost businesses thousands of dollars.

It’s been estimated, according to a recent article published by BNN Bloomberg, the Canadian economy took a $142 million hit when a major service outage July 8 affected more than 12 million Rogers’ customers.

 

The system-wide cable internet and cellular network failure, which included subsidiary brands of Rogers Wireless, Fido, Cityfone and Chatr, was blamed on a maintenance update in its core network and in some cases, repairs took several days before all services were fully restored. Rogers has agreed to compensate customers affected by the outage, but many have now been left wondering what the next outage could bring?

 

We asked two local IT experts – Five Nines IT Solutions President & CEO Douglas Grosfield and MicroAge Kitchener owner Robert Jolliffe – to share their thoughts on what businesses can do to ensure they are better prepared for the next big outage.

 

Q. What can business owners do to prepare for potential interruptions?

 

Robert: First, they should determine if they can run their business off their cell phone by hot spotting. During the Rogers outage, some people had their business internet and cell phone both with Rogers, and that left them without a back-up option.  

 

The second thing a business can do, is have two internet connections on your business premises from two different providers. If your business is at a certain size and an extra $100 (or less) a month for a backup internet connection is a negligible cost, the second connection is worthwhile investment. Even if you are not using it, you have the insurance of a back-up connection.  

 

The backup could even be the lowest, cheapest connection available, which will get you through a day or two until your main connection is back up. It’s also worth considering whether one of your connections should be wireless; Starlink is an example of wireless internet connection.  

 

Douglas: Assuming a business is using proper perimeter security devices, most industry standard firewalls will easily support having two ISP connections and will use them in many ways.  You can have them active / passive, meaning if your primary connection fails, all traffic fails over to the secondary connection with nearly zero disruption, and fails back to the primary once it again becomes available. You can also do load balancing or ‘bond’ them such that traffic with different priorities (i.e., data vs voice) uses the appropriate connection and thus has no adverse effect on the other.  Check if your cellphones support dual SIMs; many do nowadays.  You can then have a SIM from more than one cellular provider and ensure reliable communications. An alternative would be to pay for minimal ‘lines’ for key or critical users, at a secondary provider, so that a manual swap of SIMs can get them back in business quickly.  Note that these things mean a different number, but in the short term can provide connectivity and communications.

 

Q. What would be the simplest piece of advice you could offer businesses when it comes to navigating these interruptions?

 

Robert: Have a backup plan. If there's a fire in the building, you have an evacuation plan. If the if power goes out, you know what you're going to do for your business. Treat internet failure the same way.

 

Douglas: Do not allow yourself to believe you are exempt from disruptions like this. Talk to a trusted technical partner about your options and like anything else, take the first step to achieve a goal.  If as a business owner your primary goal is not to protect that business, its clients and staff, its data, and systems, and to ensure the business continues to thrive and grow, then you’re doing it wrong.

 

Q. Do you see further interruptions like these becoming more commonplace and can they be prevented?

 

Robert: They won't become more commonplace, but they will be more severe because more of our society is connected to the internet now.  

The big telecom companies are going to put in more fail-safes, so the likelihood of it happening again is low. But as time goes on and society becomes more connected to the internet the likelihood of it causing disruptions is higher. 

For example, during the Rogers outage many people couldn't pay for things. 

Another example would be grocery stores that have digital price tags on the shelves. They're using this so that they can push price changes out from their head office, electronically across all the stores. So just imagine if you needed an internet connection for that, and all the prices get set to zero and then the internet went out?

 

Douglas: Yes, these companies are in business to generate profit, no surprises there.  Their investment (in the absence of legislation or other government-mandated investments) in the backbone networks and infrastructure, and the security of same, are going to be tightly budgeted and controlled.  Add to this the fact there is little competition and low likelihood of that changing anytime soon, and the communications landscape in Canada is ripe for this sort of disruption.  Toss in external issues such as cyber-attacks, and we can see that our current highly vulnerable national communications infrastructure needs overhauling and investment.

 

Don’t get me wrong, you can protect yourself by doing the right things regardless.  Endpoint protection, firewalls, redundant Internet connections, mobile device security, VPNs, encryption, etc.  All readily available technologies, inexpensive and simple to implement and manage with expert help and advice.

 

Q. Are businesses too reliant on one telecommunications company to deliver their service?

 

Robert: I would say that, yes. If a business only has one internet connection which is connected to an almost consumer grade firewall, then they are too reliant on one company. At first, if that internet connection goes down, that business is okay to go a day without internet. Then they grow to a size where it’s not okay to go a day without internet, but they don't change anything.  There are higher end firewalls that will allow them to mesh two connections, from two providers. So, if the main internet connection goes down, the other one from the other provider kicks in seamlessly. Employees and users on the network won’t even notice a disruption.  

 

Douglas: The communications market in Canada is radically different than in the U.S., for example, where there are far more options. However, having more providers requires subscriber density, meaning how many paying customers per square mile for example, to support the infrastructure.  For example, cellular service across a large geographic area requires mostly the same infrastructure (i.e., towers, networks etc) for 10 clients as it would for thousands or tens of thousands.  Without enough subscribers, it is cost prohibitive. Relying on one provider is very risky and given the simplicity and low cost for redundancy in this space, is both a mistake and a missed opportunity for businesses.  Business as usual when your competitors are not, is a huge advantage and costs very little.  Spread out your risk, eliminate by using proven technology to do so.

 

 

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An apparent cooling down in Canada’s real estate market due to higher inflation does not mean the future isn’t bright, say local experts.

 

In its latest report released June 15, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) indicated that despite national home sales falling 8.6% on a month-over-month basis in May, the number of newly listed properties was up by 4.5%.

 

As well, while many Ontario markets saw a dip in prices from April to May, the average price of a home remains 40% higher than before the COVID-19 crisis and numbers were up in many markets in northern and southern parts of the province, and eastern areas of cottage country.

 

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) national average home price, according CREA, was a little over $711,000 in May, up 3.4% from the same time in 2021. However, the report notes this average is ‘heavily influenced’ by sales in the GTA and Great Vancouver markets.

 

Also, according to BDC in its June Monthly Economic Letter, the slowdown in demand and affordability issues hurting markets are counter-balanced by a growing population and many first-time buyers in the market. These buyers account for nearly half of all home buyers and the growth prospects remain high for this group.

 

 

We reached out to the Cambridge Association of Realtors to get its take on the situation, especially how it pertains to commercial real estate. Thanks to Association President Val Brooks, of Royal LePage Crown Realty Services, and her colleague, Rick Lewis, a registered Commercial Realtor with ReMax Twin City Realty Inc, for their input for this Q&A:

 

 

Q.  The rise of inflation, now at 30-year highs, has sparked a market slowdown for home buyers. Do the same factors come into play for those seeking commercial property?

 

A. Inflation has affected all ‘real estate’ markets in general. Factor in interest rates, economic conditions, government policies and of course market changes. It is true that commercial properties and their market values react to broad economic conditions.  Take gas prices as one example affecting the commercial industry on whole. Business statistical data for Canada shows that we have 1.2 million business in Canada of which 97.9% are small business owners who employ between one to 99 staff members.  Of that, 48,325 Canadian establishments exported goods with a value totaling $471.9 Billion. Gas prices are more likely a concern than the housing market slowdown. With home prices stabilizing, it might be seen as a good indicator for businesses overall as they try to keep and attract new employees.   

 

 

Q. As home prices rose as the COVID crisis began, currently standing at 40% higher than before the pandemic, was there a similar trend for those seeking commercial property?

 

A. The commercial landscape during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 did slow down as we adapted to pandemic safety concerns and policies handed down by our governments. However, the market adjusted quickly to the supply and demand by the consumers looking for homes, and subsequently, commercial properties. As real estate prices rose quickly in Toronto, so did the demand on our residential and commercial properties; commercially speaking with such keen interest in the areas of warehousing, storage facilities and transportation.  Because we offered quick access to Toronto, Hamilton, and London via our highway access, along with good lease rates and purchase power, the tri-cities were attractive to those businesses dealing with higher cost in the Toronto area. COVID-19 affected the commercial landscape with a pent-up demand and low inventory complicating your ability to satisfy our clients’ needs.    

 

 

Q. What are some of the trends – especially right here in Waterloo Region - have you and your colleagues been seeing? Does it differ compared to other places like Toronto?

 

A. With more opportunity in the single-family housing market one of the main trends was moving out of Toronto for a larger home with land within the Waterloo Region area. More bang for the dollar, which in-turn pushed our pricing upward. Our rural properties became popular with work from home employees, wanting the country living and open spaces away from the congestion of Toronto living.

 

 

Q. Where do you think the market will be a year to five years from now?

 

A. There will be a continued growth in population in our tri-cities. Focus will be shifted to new developments putting greater emphasis on a more employee driven atmosphere and amenity options. Currently, 300,000 square feet is under construction in Guelph. It will help elevate some of the interest, however, this will not be enough to satisfy the current demand, so we see this being an issue for a few years to come. Large to small businesses will be needing more industrial spaces between 2,500, 5,000 & 10,000 square feet.  We are, and have been, an area of choice that will continue to evolve over the next five years with new exciting and innovative ideas in building construction. We will see subleasing becoming more popular as businesses deal with ownership retirement.  The hope is new businesses will come to the forefront that will assume or expand on these retiring trades.  In general, commercial real estate is on a substantial uptick right now. With interest rates still low, employment at all-time high, the economy is rebounding at a fast pace, and occupancies are at an all-time high meaning low available commercial inventory. It’s hard not to remain confident that for the foreseeable future, commercial real estate is going to remain on an upward trajectory here in the tri-cities.

 

 

Q. What advice can you offer at this point to those seeking to buy/sell a home or commercial property?

 

A. Real estate has been a very stable and good investment with a long track record.  We may see a more stabilized market for a few years with home prices keeping pace with the marketplaces. Commercial real estate will have low inventory both for sale and for lease. Land will continue to be valuable with greater importance on environmental ideology and new construction and innovation will be the future of the commercial landscape. Is it time to sell or stay the course? That has always been the million-dollar question that has us all guessing on the future, however bright.

 

For information, visit the Cambridge Association of Realtors

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