Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

It’s not easy to operate or manage a business, even during the best of times.

 

But add in a worldwide pandemic, and the stresses many employers and employees face quickly become magnified.

 

“I have found over the past two years the one thing that is negatively impacting leaders is the societal expectations that they have all the answers,” says Lynn Charlton, proprietor of Lynn Charlton Business Solutions in Kitchener, noting COVID-19 did not come with a ‘playbook’ for businesses. “There is no historical data available that is comparable to our current circumstances.”

 

Lynn, along with Jim Moss, Executive Director of YMCA Workwell, will provide expert insight at our virtual event May 3 entitled A Difficult Conversation. Let’s #GetReal About Mental Health regarding the stresses employers and employees are now facing in the workplace.

 

“I think during the pandemic we’ve become a little shortsighted about the human experience,” says Lynn, noting that many employers are also employees themselves. “We forget about that part and that they are going through this just like everybody else. Everyone has been negatively impacted in circumstances unique to them, regardless of how we may present ourselves at work.”

 

When it comes to ‘big’ stressors for employers, Lynn says many are faced with turnaround pressure trying to translate the latest directives from a medical perspective and apply them to an employment perspective, explaining the Employment Standards Act has always been a very reactive piece of legislation.

 

“Employers are getting minimum support from the Employment Standards Act on how to interpret this information because we can’t keep up,” she says. “No one is letting anybody down and I think the expectation may be out of line of how quickly these things can be determined.”

 

Another stressor for employers is looking at the larger picture overall of how businesses must quickly learn to adapt.

 

“The pandemic has completely stressed our old norms and redefined expectations from both the leadership side to the employee side,” says Lynn. “The resiliency of our leadership has been dramatically challenged over the past two years and resiliency is not an infinite resource.”

 

She says having empathy in the workplace is key, especially now.

 

“It is important for both leaders and employers that empathy needs to be a two-way street,” says Lynn. “As much as we as leaders need to be empathic, our teams also during times like this need to be empathic towards their leaders.”

 

Jim, who will share the spotlight with her at the webinar, agrees and says employers must be able to read the signs when it comes dealing with their employees’ mental health.

 

“Mental health issues have a tendency to first show up in our behaviours and appearance,” he says. “Leaders with higher emotional intelligence often pick up on these types of signs more quickly as they are both consciously and subconsciously paying attention and prioritizing this kind of data all the time.”

 

To help the situation, he recommends employers be as adaptable and flexible whenever they can.

 

“When you can’t be flexible any further, be honest and upfront with people so they can make the best decisions for themselves,” says Jim. “Replace the golden rule with the platinum rule; treat your employees like they want to be treated not how you want to be treated. If people need to change jobs, talk about it early and make it work as best you can.”

 

At the webinar, he hopes to refer to specific data to give participants an even better understanding of surrounding some of these issues.

 

“Ideally, we hope that people will see themselves in the data that we share,” says Jim. “It will help them understand some of the ways that they might be feeling are the same as some others in the community while also realizing that many others feel similar, but for very different reasons.”

 

Lynn says she hopes participants will come away being able to identify some of the ‘red flags’ surrounding burn out in successful and productive leaders.

 

“We all have stress and it’s OK to have stress,” she says. “But it’s about how do we manage that work stress without negatively impacting our team and the people relying on us to be that ‘solid’ person in trying times.”

 

 

'A Difficult Conversation. Let’s #GetReal About Mental Health' takes place virtually Tuesday, May 3 from 11 a.m. to noon. Sign up at: https://bit.ly/3MjQcwm

 

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The full impact COVID-19 continues to have on businesses has yet to be determined as our economy slowly rebuilds.

 

But what is apparent is the realization that many workplaces can no longer operate as they once did as many employers navigate labour shortages and the creation of hybrid work models to accommodate employees who wish to continue working remotely.

“Everyone seems to be looking for this return to normal but if you want any semblance of normality than just keep dreaming,” says Julie Dupont, Principal Strategist at Cambridge-based Reimagining Leadership. “Employee expectations have changed, and the Great Resignation is an indication of that.”

While there are some reports indicating this phenomenon may not be as prevalent in Canada just yet compared to the U.S., there is cause for concern considering the results of a StatsCan Labour Force Survey outlined last month in the Globe & Mail indicate that Canadian employers were recruiting for about 875,000 positions.

 

To offset growing labour gaps and the emotional ‘trauma’ ignited by the pandemic, Julie says the need for employers to utilize their emotional intelligence skills has become paramount.

 

Emotional intelligence centres on understanding and managing your own emotions in positive ways to communicate effectively and empathetically with others to overcome challenges and defuse conflict.

 

Julie, who along with Laura Falby, Senior Director of People and Culture at Waterloo Brewing, will explore this topic further by outlining how meaningful dialogue can help create healthier working environments during our virtual event March 29 entitled ‘Emotional Intelligence: Strengthening Workplace Culture’.

 

“I think emotional intelligence skills have been important for a long time, but I think there is a real necessity for them now because people need to connect in different ways in order to feel like they can be human again,” says Julie, adding the many uncertainties surrounding the pandemic has had a huge impact on workplaces, even those where employees have remained on site. “It’s about how you handle the uncertainties out there, not just as a human being but as a leader, that is really going to make a huge impact on being able to get people performing again.”

 

Julie says ‘pampering’ and ‘babying’ employees is not part of it and that encouraging open conversations is key as employees re-enter the workplace or continue to work remotely. 

 

She admits for many employers, learning to use these types of skills may not come easy.

 

“It’s not something that is going to come naturally to anybody,” says Julie, noting these are hard not soft, skills that can be learned. “It is really a series of learned behaviours and the more you do them, with practice, they become easier because you start to change your mindset when you see the results of these conversations.”

 

She says listening to their employees is the first major step employers can take, not just dictating to them new post-pandemic work protocols. 

 

“The missing piece is the listening and really understanding what do your people need from you? Do they have what they need to be able to do their jobs well and feel supported and valued?” says Julie. “By using your emotional intelligence skills, they (employees) will take care of the bottom line, and they will be become more loyal to you and willing to go that extra mile.”

 

She hopes participants at our virtual event will not only be eager to learn more about emotional intelligence skills but realize how using them effectively can directly impact a business’ bottom line.

 

“If your people are leaving, who is getting the work done? How much does it cost the company every time an employee leaves or has to hire someone and get them up to speed?” says Julie. “What’s the cost savings or cost avoidances around that?”

 

‘Emotional Intelligence: Strengthening the Workplace’ takes place Tuesday, March 29 from 11 a.m. to noon. To register, visit: https://bit.ly/3Jn7lUM

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It has been a tumultuous time for businesses since COVID-19 surfaced nearly two years ago, which is why the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is encouraging business leaders to celebrate themselves at our annual Business Excellence Awards.

 

“It’s not only time to celebrate the achievements of businesses, but also to celebrate all the people who have endured the last couple of years,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “It’s time to raise our glasses to the very people and businesses that have given us all the opportunities we have in our community.”

 

The Business Excellence Awards is the Chamber’s premier event and has honoured the contributions and achievements of business leaders in the City of Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries since 2000, and features 11 award categories, eight of whom require nominations.

 

“We all know somebody in business who has done something generally remarkable during COVID-19,” says Greg, adding this may go beyond the concept of ‘pivoting’. “Maybe they have created a whole new line of products related to PPE? Or maybe they became very innovative in the way they operate due to staff changes or shortages?”

 

Also, he says there may be businesses out there that have successfully enhanced their workplace culture at a time when employees have had to distance themselves via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

 

“Despite that, perhaps there are businesses that have found ways to bring their employees even closer together?”

 

As well, Greg says there are businesses that should be recognized because they have found ways to help the community, even during this tough time.

 

“There are many companies who have been successful through the pandemic but made a difference in the community by being generous with their profits and helping others who have been unable to help themselves whether this storm.”

 

He also encourages businesses to nominate themselves.

 

“It’s not a bad thing to nominate yourself because there may be others who don’t know or understand what you did, or the stress or strain you went through during this time,” says Greg. “These are stories that need to be told.”

 

He says the awards are a great way for the Cambridge business community to celebrate its hard work and efforts.


“We are an innovative and aggressive business community. We are a passionate business community, which makes us very busy every day,” says Greg. “But we can take a couple of minutes out of our day to look around at our peers and nominate them because we’ve all done something important and unique and special during the last two years.”

 

To make a nomination, visit: https://bit.ly/3rLwsdL

More details of our awards event will be announced soon.

 

Award categories open for nominations:  

  • Spirit of Cambridge Award 
  • Business of the Year (1 – 10 employees) 
  • Business of the Year (11 – 49 employees)
  • Business of the Year (More than 50 employees) 
  • New Venture of the Year Award 
  • Outstanding Workplace 
  • Marketing Excellence 
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award

 

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A shortage of rapid antigen screening kits threatens to hamper the ability of local Chambers to assist Waterloo Region businesses stay safe over the next few weeks, says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Since the start of April, the Cambridge and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers have been working with Health Canada and the Province to provide free self-screening kits to small and medium-sized businesses throughout our Region.

 

Since that time, more than 700,000 of the kits have been distributed, not to just to Chamber members but all SMEs with less than 150 employees. The goal of the program was to identify asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals from spreading COVID-19 in the workplace, at home and around the community.

 

“Up until December, everything was running very smoothly, and people were ordering kits and they were keeping workplaces safe,” says Greg, noting a provincewide shortage has altered that at very critical time for businesses. “There are a number of workplaces that are in a very vulnerable situation that are essential and it’s very important they screen employees every couple of days. You can’t have an essential business close their doors for 14 days.”

 

The Chamber initiative, which began as a pilot program and was quickly implemented provincewide by other Chambers through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network, is waiting on a delivery of approximately 150,000 of the kits to fulfill orders placed by businesses through its Chambercheck.ca portal.

 

“But the fact of the matter is we have at least 1,600 businesses who are now waiting in the cue to get their kits and we don’t have any,” says Greg, noting that leaves approximately 70,000 employees in Waterloo Region without access to rapid screening until at least mid-January.

 

“Even when we receive our order that still won’t be enough because to test that many employees we need at least 280,000 kits,” he says, explaining proper screening requirements call for employees to use the kits at least twice a week.

 

The Chamber’s last order of 50,000 kits – a week’s supply - arrived Dec. 6 and was quickly allocated to businesses or re-allocated to other businesses (including restaurants) if they were not picked up. 

 

“We know there are many workplaces that have to have them,” says Greg, adding a decision by the Province to distribute a single box of screening kits containing five tests to students over the Christmas break may not have been the best method. “It’s a great idea, but not enough has been handed out. Five tests aren’t enough and there isn’t a real strategy attached for their use and to even retain some tests for going back to school. Just handing them out is no real strategy.”

 

He says distributing through workplaces has been a great way to reach more people. 

 

“We’ve always said from the very beginning of this to the Province that about 63% of Ontarians are in workplaces so if you make rapid screening kits available for employees you have the potential to reach 63% of the population,” says Greg, noting not all employees may wish to take part in the screening program unless it was mandated. 

 

He says it would have proven cheaper for the Province to distribute more screening kits to workplaces and even curtail the resale of the kits for exorbitant amounts online.

 

“The BESTWR (Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region), along with the Chambers, started encouraging the Province to do rapid screening in May of 2020 and it took them almost a year to get out and going because we stepped up to the plate and said we would do the pilot program,” says Greg. “We literally wrote the playbook so they could pass it on.”

 

He says running the free screening program through the Chambers has also ensured all the necessary safety protocols are followed.

 

“We have all the safeguards in place to make sure these kits are being used correctly and continue to be accessible to answer any questions if businesses have had a problem,” says Greg. “It really has been a seamless program, but now we’ve seen an unnecessary pause during the most critical time for these businesses.”

 

For information, visit Chambercheck.ca

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The ability for businesses to be flexible and creative is pivotal when it comes to finding ways to combat ongoing labour shortages, say local employment experts.

 

“Those who can bend will find they can sustain themselves and grow and those who will not bend, I think they’re going to find it very difficult to maintain their productivity and business size,” says Charlene Hofbauer, Executive Director of Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin. “I think growth will be a real challenge for them.”

 

Her organization promotes workforce development by working with the community to address issues surrounding labour market trends, such as the apparent disconnect between job seekers and potential employers.

 

“The longer we go through this (pandemic), the more I think we’ve entered a workers’ market,” says Charlene, noting many local employers are struggling to find employees. “There isn’t an industry right now that isn’t hiring.”

 

Although the unemployment rate recently dropped in Waterloo Region to 5.2%, she says there exists a ‘small pool’ of talent for jobs that are very specialized. And as of Dec. 3, just over 5,400 jobs remained vacant in our region, approximately 1,500 of those in Cambridge.

 

“That’s a lot of jobs,” says Charlene, noting poaching employees becomes an issue for those seeking specific talent.

 

She says there is a big need for frontline employees in industries that often rely on short term trained workers – including restaurants, manufacturers, healthcare, and construction.

 

“But our tech and engineering firms are desperate for more senior talent,” says Charlene, adding those with seven years or more of experience are in high demand right now. “They can easily find a junior person, but they can’t find a senior person.”

 

When it comes to finding talent, she recommends employers look at other avenues, rather than the more traditional ways they’ve relied on in the past.

 

“Even temp agencies are struggling to have a decent size pool of talent right now,” says Charlene, adding her organization can connect employers with potential sources that can aide in their search. “We can connect you to whoever we can think of that’s local to you and can work to connect you to a bigger network.”

 

Among these connections is Employment Services - YMCA of Three Rivers Waterloo Region, which can introduce employers to talent by utilizing mentorships, job shadowing and financial incentives providing they are willing to engage in on-the-job training.

 

“It’s critical to reduce the number of resumes that an employer will be looking at on a weekly basis,” says Van Malatches, Supervisor of Employment Services – YMCA of Three Rivers Waterloo Region, noting many companies are receiving between 25 to 200 resumes every week. “I don’t know how many employers have the patience to engage in that.”

 

He says his organization can help employers ease that burden by connecting them to viable candidates.

 

“We have a pretty good feeling of who we are referring and often have worked with that candidate from three days at the least, to three months at the most,” says Van. 

 

He believes employers who concentrate on the ‘soft skills’ and can provide training will have an easier time finding people, especially when it comes to hiring newcomers, rather than an employer who is simply looking for a ‘body’ to fill a position.

 

“Newcomers don’t want to be taken advantage of and want to have that opportunity. It’s understanding the cultural shock the newcomer may be facing, and being patient with that,” says Van, adding being authentic in their approach to acknowledging the issues a newcomer is facing will go a long way. “For a newcomer, they are so vulnerable with the experience and cultural changes they are facing. If an employer steps up for them, that’s what’s going to keep the retention and longevity.”

 

In general, Van says employers who can be more accommodating, not to the point where it’s compromising their business, will be successful at attracting and retaining employees.

 

“There is a lot of different nuances out there that have contributed to people ghosting employers because other options are coming up,” he says, adding transportation and childcare issues can play roles in the decision to changing jobs.

 

Given the opportunity, Van says he would like to see employers in various sectors work collaboratively when it comes to sharing potential talent.

 

“I would like to see those resumes pooled together somewhere where everybody could have access to them,” he says, adding the creation of a central ‘hub’ - taking confidentiality into consideration – would be beneficial to the overall job market.

 

As well, Charlene says connecting with local post-secondary institutions is another avenue employers can take when searching for talent and that even providing summer placements to high school students can also set the stage for future growth.

 

She believes a ‘multi-pillar’ approach is the best to solve our current labour shortage.

“We’ve got to do many different things,” says Charlene. “We can’t rely on any one thing as our solution.”

 

For more, visit https://www.workforceplanningboard.com or https://www.ymcacambridgekw.ca/en/index.asp

 

In terms of advice, Charlene says employers should consider the following:

 

1.  Check what you are paying. “When it comes to those key roles you’re stuck on and hire consistently for, know where you stand,” she says, adding local job boards can offer a great snapshot. “Figure out where you are on the spectrum for that job and know what ground you have to make up. And if you’re already paying well, maybe there’s something in the background you have to look at.”

 

2. Look at your job posting. “We’re seeing many job seekers who won’t apply because the posting is without any basic information,” she says. “Where is your company? What are the hours? What is the pay? What does the job look like? You would be surprised how many postings don’t answer these four basic things, so people don’t apply. I think what job seekers are looking for now from potential employers is openness, honesty and that transparency.”

 

3. Look at who is not coming through your door. “Be really honest with yourself. If you never see any women or newcomers apply, why is that? Who can you connect with so you can start seeing these applicants? There are so many local groups you can connect with.”

 

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The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is easing its way back into hosting traditional events.

 

After more than 20 months since the pandemic began, the Chamber is set to host its first in-person Business After Hours event on Dec. 13 at Four Fathers Brewing Co. in Hespeler.

 

Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher says is an important step for the organization.

“It’s a priority for the Chamber to start getting back to in-person events,” he says. “But whether they will be ‘normal’ as we all remember them, that probably won’t happen for some time.”

 

In fact, Greg expects future Chamber events will be of the ‘hybrid’ variation to a certain degree, providing Members the chance to attend in-person or remain in a virtual setting.

 

“That’s going to be for the benefit of everybody,” he says. “But we will certainly provide Members with value in regard to our content the best that we can.”

He says having an in-person Business After Hours event is important to many Chamber Members.

 

“It’s important for people doing business in the community to have an opportunity to meet safely with others face-to-face,” says Greg, noting the importance of following strict safety protocols and restrictions set out in the Province’s Reopening Ontario Act.

 

As a result, participants will not only have to register in advance, but proof of vaccination is required as well as identification that matches that material.

Just like restaurants, the provincial QR code will also be utilized at the event.

 

“Most of our events take place in other venues, such as conference centres, restaurants or meeting rooms that are not ours,” says Greg, noting regulations set out in the Act apply to these locations.

 

As well, the Cambridge Chamber Board of Directors recently passed a mandatory vaccination policy for the Chamber office for staff and visitors arriving for meetings or programs. Those with a valid COVID-19 vaccination exemption, or having valid documentation to present, will be required to take a rapid antigen screening test before entering. These tests will be provided by the Chamber at no cost.  

 

“These are precautionary measures put in place on behalf of the staff because our staff want assurances they are working in a safe environment and we’re doing whatever we can do to make sure that happens,” says Greg, adding like many businesses, the Chamber office is also covered under the Reopening Ontario Act and is entitled to invoke a vaccination policy.

 

Creating a safe environment will also be key at the Business After Hours event which is why the Chamber will provide colour-coded lanyards to participants when they arrive.

 

“Each colour will indicate that person’s comfort level of contact,” says Greg, noting that physical distancing and masks remain important. “Some people are very anxious to get out and meet others in-person, and others are anxious to get out and meet but aren’t quite comfortable enough to do so.”

 

Business After Hours takes place from 5-6:30 p.m. For more, visit https://bit.ly/3pdiUVI

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The pandemic has created new opportunities for many workplaces.

 

The terms ‘hybrid’ and ‘flexible’ have become commonplace as companies and businesses formulate plans for their staff to return to a work environment that’s going to be far different than the one many left when the pandemic first struck in March of last year.

But that return won’t come without its challenges.

 

“We’re seeing a ton of anxiety out there right now as more and more employers start thinking of having people come back to the office,” says Frank Newman, who operates Newman HR. 

 

A survey conducted by KMPG Canada in the spring as vaccinations began to ramp up showed that 81% of Canadian workers were worried their employers and managers were not equipped to handle a return to work properly, and nearly two thirds of those surveyed wanted to go back to their workplaces but COVID-19 remained their core reason for reluctance. In fact, 68% said that working alongside colleagues who may be sick or asymptomatic was a top concern.

 

People have gotten very comfortable and generally quite productive working at home,” says Frank, adding the comforts of home and no commuting have become big draws for many. “I would say people are 90% to 95% as productive as they were working in the office. But clearly, we’re missing some of those creative exchange of ideas that come from sitting next to someone or from random conversations.”

 

In effort to quell the concerns of returning employees, he has been recommending to clients they create an open dialogue with their team to identify their worries or fears.

 

“It’s a little like when an employee returns from a maternity or parental leave. We just assume everything is the same but what we don’t realize is that they have undergone a bit of profound psychological change and I think we kind of had that experience working at home,” says Frank. “Companies have to try and understand what might have happened in employees’ lives while they were away. Some of us may have had loss and some of us may have had catastrophic things happen.”

 

Therefore, he says employers need to create or enhance their Employee Assistance Plans, especially around access to counselling, financial or legal supports – not just health, RRSPs and dental benefits. 

 

“I think more companies have recognized how stressed people have been,” says Frank, noting some employees may be reluctant to access these supports fearing word may spread in the workplace. “These programs are run with the highest sense of ethics in place in terms that nothing gets shared, even with your HR department. There shouldn’t be any fear about utilizing an EAP program if you have one.”

 

As well, he says vaccination policies are a huge concern and appear to be ‘all over the map’ in some workplaces and stressed that whatever stance a company takes regarding its own policy, it should be clearly defined for the employees.

 

“You want to make sure you’re talking about why you’re doing a policy, regardless of what it is because people need to know,” says Frank. “We want to keep people feeling safe at work.”

 

He says optimism appears high right now regarding bringing workers back and expects to see even more people return starting in January.

 

“I’ve got clients in virtually every sector. And the most challenging time right now is in the restaurant and food services industry,” says Frank, explaining vaccination passports and the fact fewer people have been dining out are continuing factors hitting this industry hard.

 

Also, he says workplaces with an office and a production/manufacturing component also may see the natural divide between the two widen since the office workers likely were allowed to work from home during the pandemic.

 

“Companies have to be thoughtful about how they show appreciation to those people who’ve been at the workplace every day,” he says, adding celebrating the return of employees in a positive way would also be beneficial. “I like the idea of giving something tangible, like a gift card perhaps.”

 

Frank says connections must be cultivated as people return to their offices.

 

“What we’ve learned from this whole process is that finding ways to connect with people is so important,” he says.

 

For more information, visit Newman Human Resources or contact Frank Newman at 519.362.8352.

 

Things for employers to consider as outlined by the Harvard Business Review:

 

Do:  

  • Ask - anonymously, if necessary – how people are feeling about returning to the office so you can respond directly to their concerns

  • Allow people to experiment with different ways of working so the shift to in-person or hybrid work doesn’t feel sudden. 

  • Continue to be compassionate — to your team members, and to yourself.

 

Don’t:  

  • Assume people are going to tell you that they’re feeling anxious

  • Neglect to make clear why in-person or hybrid work is beneficial to employees (not just to the company).

  • Make promises you can’t keep, such as assuring people their careers won’t be impacted by working from home or that they can do so indefinitely.

 

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Providing the necessary supports to businesses is vital, especially as work continues to rebuild our economy in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by getting people back to work. 

 

One way to ensure the economic development of Canada is well positioned is by creating more opportunities for entrepreneurial newcomers who can not only help fill existing labour shortage gaps but work towards reshaping our business landscape by opening new businesses and assisting existing ones in need of solid succession plans as aging business owners look towards retirement. 

 

With that in mind, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has developed a policy through consultations with Members via its MasterMind series entitled ‘Promoting the need for Entrepreneurship Immigration’ which calls for the Federal government to examine ways to ensure that a percentage of the 1.2 million immigrants slated to be brought to Canada by our government over the course of the next three years be linked to the entrepreneurship stream.

 

The policy won approval at the recent 2021 Canadian Chamber AGM & Convention which attracted more than 250 Chamber policymakers and officials nationwide virtually over a two-day period. The approved policy now becomes part of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s mandate when it lobbies at the legislative level with the Federal government.

 

“This policy will target individuals who are entrepreneurs and business builders who come to Canada with money in their pockets to not only invest in this country, but more importantly to invest in their own businesses here that will create opportunities for other Canadians,” says Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher. “We’re always looking for companies that want to expand into Canada, but why don’t we look for people who want to bring their businesses and business ideas here? It’s a market that’s been left untapped and we hope this policy receives serious consideration at the Federal level.”

 

An estimated 181,000 of small business owners according to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) survey conducted last year said they were seriously considering closing due to the pandemic and at least 200,000 were facing closure. Coupled with the fact many small business owners on the verge of retirement have not created viable succession plans – a CFIB survey conducted in 2018 indicated more than $1.5 trillion in business assets will be in play over the next decade as 72% of small business owners leave their business – there exists many potential opportunities for new immigrants with an entrepreneurial spirit.  

 

A current shortage of workers, especially in the construction, manufacturing, and hospitality industries, has set the stage for skilled immigrants in these fields to enter the market and possibly use their entrepreneurial know-how and practical work experiences to create new opportunities in these sectors. 

 

The Federal government has been attempting to make strides in addressing the ongoing shortage of skilled workers in Canada which has been only amplified by the pandemic. 

 

In February of this year, it announced an invitation to approximately 27,300 workers with Canadian experience to apply for permanent residence. This followed on an earlier federal announcement in the fall of 2020 to bring to Canada an additional 1.2 million immigrants over the course of the next three years: 401,000 in 2021; 411,000 in 2022; and 421,000 in 2023. 

 

While this influx of newcomers is welcomed and needed considering there are growing concerns centred on Canada’s falling birth rate, a more focused approach to create an ‘economic immigration policy’ that not only provides ample assistance to newcomers but also ensures the needs of existing Canadian groups, including Indigenous entrepreneurs seeking their own opportunities, are not negatively impacted, would be beneficial.

 

“We have an immigration policy that is geared towards our economy. It’s a point system, largely generated on the skills newcomers bring to the table,” says Greg, referring to education and various qualifications. “The problem is there are holes within the economic system that are not being filled.”

 

He says the current system often seems to focus on professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and engineers but needs to be widened. 

 

“We need to look at people who have businesses and would like to move them here have business ideas and the skills to develop those ideas in Canada,” says Greg.

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The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce release second pillar of their ‘Ontario Business Matters’ federal election campaign: Healthy People and Prosperous Communities

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) called on the next Parliament to take decisive action to support healthy and prosperous communities as the foundation of a robust and inclusive economic recovery.

 

In its Second Pillar of its Ontario Business Matters federal election platform, released today, Healthy People and Prosperous Communities, the Cambridge Chamber and OCC underscore the importance of strategic investments in health care, childcare, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and reskilling opportunities for those hardest hits by the pandemic.

 

“The COVID-19 crisis has strained Ontario’s health care system and the economic impacts of the pandemic have been disproportionate for women, Indigenous peoples, newcomers, and racialized peoples,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “Targeted policies – such as making childcare more accessible and affordable for families as well as advancing re-skilling opportunities for those hit hardest by the pandemic – will be critical to Canada’s rapid recovery and long-term growth.”

 

The campaign also notes the need to address growing health care needs, support the province’s aging population, and prepare for future crises. It also calls on federal parties – along with businesses to do better to confront Canada’s racist legacy and the enduring implications of the residential “school” system.

 

“When people are healthy and prosperous so too is the economy and business. We all must do better when it comes to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, including the business community, as outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations on Business and Reconciliation,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC.

 

Recommendations under this pillar include:

 

  • Advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples by implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
  • Increasing health transfers to Ontario to address growing healthcare needs such as the surgical backlog and limited cancer screening, support the aging population and prepare for future crises.
  • Improving accessibility and affordability of childcare by working collaboratively with the province to reduce childcare costs and improve access for families.
  • Advancing opportunities for women and equity seeking groups in economic recovery such as enhancing reskilling and education programs for those displaced by technology adoption and pandemic-related job losses.

Through the Ontario Business Matters federal election campaign, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and OCC, along with over 155 local chambers and boards of trade, are sharing pressing policy issues related to Ontario business that need to be front and centre in the federal election.

 

For more information about the Ontario Business Matters campaign, please visit website.

 

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On a warm summer day, the patio at Thirteen in downtown Cambridge is a popular spot.

 

The pedestrian-friendly space created by the temporary closure of Main Street between Water Street South and Ainslie Street North has enabled the restaurant and its neighbouring eateries to create an inviting atmosphere for residents and visitors as Ontario’s reopening continues in wake of the pandemic.

 

But despite this great potential, Thirteen co-owner Matt Rolleman has only been able to operate the restaurant five days a week due to a staffing shortage.

 

“The staff we have is great and they’ve worked so hard, but I would have to put everyone into overtime all the time if we wanted to remain open seven days a week,” he says. “Right now, we don’t use our second-floor restaurant at all. We definitely don’t have the staff for that.”

 

He’s not alone. Many industries – from construction to manufacturing to hospitality – are having difficulty finding workers.

 

According to Statistics Canada, as reported by the Financial Post in early June, an estimated 632,700 positions – approximately 4.1% of jobs in Canada - were vacant in March. This translates, according to the article, approximately 100 basis points higher than pre-pandemic levels.

 

Matt says by the fall his ultimate hope is to be able to run the restaurant at pre-COVID-19 levels.

 

“But it’s going to be a struggle,” he admits, adding while searching the job site Indeed Canada looking for staff, he’s noticed many people working in local restaurants seeking opportunities in other establishments.

 

“There’s been a lot of upheaval. Some people who’ve been out of the restaurant industry for the past year have decided they are not coming back and that’s just the way it is.”

 

Canadian Tire owner Kerry Leroux has also found himself facing a few hurdles when it comes to finding employees.

 

“We are in a constant state of hiring. We’re always looking for people,” he says. “You’re also in a constant state of training as well which makes it very difficult on the other staff, so we have to get them trained as quickly as possible.”

 

He says some retail businesses will put new employees right to work on the floor with virtually no training which is something he doesn’t do at his store which usually employs about 150 workers (about 40% of whom are full time).

 

“That’s really not fair to the employee or the customers when you do that,” says Kerry, adding this is the first time he’s experienced an employment situation like this since taking over the operation of the Pinebush Road store 10 years ago.

 

Like many, he finds it difficult to understand why there are so many job vacancies, considering

Canada’s unemployment rate in May was 8.2% which translated in the loss of 68,000 jobs.

 

But Brendon Bernard, a senior economist at Indeed Canada Corp., was quoted in the Financial Post explaining that the natural push and pull between the number of people seeking employment and available jobs has been thrown into turmoil by the pandemic.

 

Factors in this ‘upheaval’, according to the article, include a spike in demand for products and services in sectors that were already struggling to find qualified workers and potential health risks frontline workers face being exposed to COVID-19.

 

Couple these factors with enhanced employment benefits from the federal government, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), and the pressure has been reduced for people when it comes taking what are considered as lower-paid jobs.

 

“Once the CERB was announced by the Feds that really slowed down the number of people applying for jobs,” says Kerry, noting that providing the benefit to students during January and February which are the slowest months in the retail business also didn’t help

“It made no sense at that time of the year for the government to hand over $500 a week to a student living at home,” he says, adding the money might have had more impact if it had been directed towards their education costs instead. “I think they (government) looked at it in the wrong way.”

 

For Mehrzad Salkhordeh, part owner of dB Noise Reductions Inc., a Cambridge-based engineering company that offers a variety of noise reduction solutions, he says the CERB has made it difficult for many small businesses.

 

“I think for the younger generation - not to stereotype or categorize – it won’t hit them until it hits them,” he says, adding the tax implications of collecting the benefit will eventually be felt. “When they do their taxes next year, they will see the impact and then they will start looking for opportunities. For them, I think next year is going to be wake-up call.”

 

Currently, he too has had trouble filling positions and says ongoing border closures has resulted in fewer qualified immigrants entering the workforce as well as international students from taking part time jobs in many sectors.

“I’m hoping with the vaccinations and with better progress we seem to be having with COVID-19 that things will go back to being a bit more normal,” says Mehrzad, adding there is a need now for the government to motivate and accommodate small businesses.

 

He says offering higher wages seems like an easy fix but doing so will quickly impact the bottom line for most small businesses.

 

“I think $20 an hour is a pretty good starting point for someone with no experience who is starting fresh. But I know you can’t live off $40,000 a year and feed a family and pay rent,” he says. “As a person I understand that. But as an employer, if I want to pay this person $25 an hour, I must raise my pricing and servicing and will not be able to maintain the business.”

 

Kerry says offering incentives – such as profit sharing and good benefits - and promoting how his store is ‘different’ from other retailers is imperative when it comes to finding workers.

 

“There’s a lot of jobs out there and people are coming in with very specific questions on what this job can do for me, and that’s fair,” he says. “I want them to ask those questions because I want them to see the differences between one or the other.”

 

Matt agrees finding the right person is vital but says even without CERB, which is scheduled to end on September 25, hiring workers will remain difficult taking into account new and larger employers in our Region, such as the suspected Amazon facility in the works near Blair.

 

“These opportunities are great and will employ a lot of people in terms of secure jobs. But I look at them as an opportunity for me to lose some staff,” he says, adding at his restaurant COVID-19 fears have lessened among staff due to ongoing and strict safety protocols. “There’s enough going on in Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge right now so if someone wants to leave a job and find another job, they can do it relatively quickly depending on what they are looking for.”

 

According to Statistics Canada in March:

  • 4.1% of jobs in Canada – roughly 632,700 – were vacant
  • Canada’s unemployment rate was 8.2%, with another 68,000 jobs lost
  • Hospitality sector posted a vacancy rate of 7.4% (roughly 68,400) unfilled jobs
  • Construction sector posted a vacancy rate of 5.8% (roughly 58,300) unfilled jobs
  • Transportation & warehousing posted a vacancy rate of 3.9% (roughly 30,600) unfilled jobs
  • Retail posted a vacancy rate of 4% (roughly 75,300) unfilled jobs
  • Healthcare & social assistance sector’s job vacancy rate was 4.8% (roughly 104,200 jobs)

 

Source: Financial Post

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