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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a double-edged sword in the realm of cybersecurity, offering immense potential to bolster defenses and creating daunting challenges that can exacerbate vulnerabilities. As businesses and organizations increasingly rely on digital infrastructure and data-driven processes, the role of AI in cybersecurity becomes crucial.

 

Historically, the term ‘artificial intelligence’ was first coined in the mid-1950s during a workshop held in Dartmouth by John McCarthy, a U.S. computer scientist, but the concept had already surfaced in 1921 when a Czech playwright introduced the notion of “artificial people” in a production entitled Rossum’s Universal Robots.

 

“AI has been around for a long time and has just scaled to what it is today, and is definitely something businesses are catching on to,” says Nick Lewis, CEO and Director of ShockproofIT, referring to AI and the issues surrounding its use. 

 

On the positive side, AI is now a daunting ally in the fight against cyber threats due to its ability to process vast amounts of data at lightning speed which enables AI-powered systems to accurately detect anomalies and patterns indicative of malicious activities. Machine learning algorithms can analyze historical data to identify evolving attack courses, allowing for proactive defense measures. 

 

“AI can really speed up the process and can look at the path of an infection from the root file all the way up to the end user,” says Nick. “AI can help investigate that path and how it’s happening, locating where the broken or infected link is so you can troubleshoot further.”

 

Insights offered for emerging threats

 

As well, AI-driven threat intelligence platforms can provide real-time insights into emerging threats, empowering organizations to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals. And for those who’ve already experienced an attack, it can also provide a detailed report of the incident for auditing purposes.

 

“AI can help you provide some verbose notes and data for creating reports about any attacks,” he says. “It can help you build that out.”

 

On the negative side, the proliferation of AI also introduces new challenges and risks to cybersecurity as cybercriminals continue to increasingly harness AI-powered tools and techniques to launch sophisticated attacks that can evade traditional security defenses. 

 

“Cybercriminals can analyze and collect data much quicker now and identify other avenues and trajectories of attack,” says Nick. “Criminals can also create new and sophisticated, and original targeted phishing attacks that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without the help or aid of AI.”

 

As well, AI can also assist cybercriminals in creating malware that contains new vulnerabilities and then bypasses detections, he says.

 

Barrier lowered for novice hackers

 

Couple this with the fact the democratization of AI technologies has lowered the barrier to entry for cybercriminals, enabling even novice hackers to leverage AI-driven attack tools with devastating consequences, means even more threats for businesses. 

 

To combat potential threats, Nick recommends businesses conduct thorough research when it comes to boosting their cybersecurity systems.

 

“You have to do your research so you can make an informed decision before you implement anything, especially something like AI,” says Nick, who also recommends talking with someone who is knowledgeable when it comes to AI-powered systems. “Talk to a professional, or someone who has been using it for a long time in many different markets and knows it from a core fundamental aspect.”

 

But more importantly, he recommends having a security professional audit the needs of your business to ensure you implement any AI property, safely, and effectively.

 

“How does your organization and your day-to-day operations work? What do you do and don’t do? What kind of logistics are going on?” says Nick. “From there, you can build a solid plan based on those things.”

 

 

Tips for leveraging AI in business cybersecurity:

 

Understand your cybersecurity needs: Before adopting AI solutions, assess your organization's cybersecurity posture, identify key vulnerabilities, and determine specific areas where AI can make the most impact, such as threat detection, incident response, or user authentication.

 

Choose the right AI technologies: Select AI technologies that align with your cybersecurity objectives and capabilities. This may include machine learning for anomaly detection, natural language processing for threat intelligence analysis, or robotic process automation for automating routine security tasks.

 

Invest in quality data: Ensure that your cybersecurity data is accurate, relevant, and representative of potential threats and attack scenarios. Invest in data quality assurance processes and data governance frameworks to maintain the integrity and reliability of your data.

 

Employ AI-driven threat intelligence: Leverage AI-powered threat intelligence platforms can analyze vast amounts of data from diverse sources, including open-source intelligence, dark web forums, and security feeds, to provide actionable intelligence for proactive defense.

 

Implement AI-driven anomaly detection: Deploy machine learning algorithms to monitor network traffic, user behaviour, and system activities for anomalies indicative of malicious activities. 

 

Enable AI-driven incident response: Automate incident response processes using AI-powered orchestration and automation tools which can analyze security alerts, prioritize incidents based on severity and impact, and execute predefined response actions to contain and mitigate security breaches more efficiently.

 

Ensure transparency and accountability: Maintain transparency and accountability in AI-driven cybersecurity initiatives by documenting processes, methodologies, and decision-making criteria. 

 

Stay informed about AI advancements and best practices: Keep abreast of the latest developments in AI technologies, cybersecurity trends, and best practices through continuous learning and engagement with industry forums, conferences, and professional networks. 

 

Balance AI automation with human oversight: While AI can automate routine security tasks and augment human capabilities, it is essential to maintain human oversight and intervention where necessary. 

 

Regularly evaluate and adapt your AI cybersecurity strategy: Continuously monitor the performance and efficacy of your AI-driven cybersecurity initiatives and make adjustments as needed based on evolving threats, technological advancements, and organizational requirements. 

 

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As technology continues to rapidly evolve, businesses are increasingly turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI) to streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and gain a competitive edge. 

 

There is no question surrounding the benefits of integrating AI into business processes, but there remain legitimate concerns that accompany this technological leap.

 

One primary concern is the ethical implications of AI implementation. As AI systems such as ChatGPT, ClickUp, Copy.ai, or Kickresume become more sophisticated, they often require access to vast amounts of data to function effectively. This raises questions about privacy and the responsible use of sensitive information, as well as legal concerns surrounding the use of intellectual property.

 

“The question is fair use or is it a violation of copyright,” says Maura Grossman, Research Professor, School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, whose expertise centres on AI policy and ethics. 

 

She notes that an AI user can reference a particular article, book, or poem, despite it being copyrighted.  “It shouldn’t be able to do that because that’s a copyright infraction, but it can. The law hasn’t caught up with that yet but there are a number of legal cases now pending.”

 

Algorithms a concern

 

As well, Professor Grossman says bias in AI algorithms is another major concern. AI systems learn from historical data, and if that data contains biases, the algorithms can sustain and amplify them resulting in discriminatory outcomes and reinforcing existing social disparities.

 

“You’re going to find that in the language as well as the images. Open AI has spent a lot of time trying to remove toxic language from the system, so you get a little bit less of that with ChatPT,” she says, referring to the problems Microsoft experienced when it released its Tay bot in March 2016. The bot, under the name TayTweets with the handle @TayandYou, resulted in Twitter (now known as ‘X’) users tweet politically incorrect phrases and inflammatory messages resulting in the bot releasing racist and sexually charged messages in response to other users. Initially, Microsoft suspended the account after 16 hours, erasing the inflammatory tweets and two days later took it offline.  

 

“Most systems, like ChatGPT, are trained on the internet and that has its pluses and minuses,” says Professor Grossman, adding ‘hallucinations’ pose another big problem for AI users. “ChatGPT for example is trained to generate new content and to sound very conversational, so it uses what it has learned on the internet to predict the next most likely word. But that doesn’t mean it’s telling you the truth.”

 

Official policy needed

 

She says there have been instances of people using AI to conduct legal research and submitting bogus case citations in court. “I think the first case happened recently in B.C., but it has also happened all over the U.S.,” says Professor Grossman.

 

For businesses utilizing AI, she recommends drafting an official policy to outline usage.

 

“First they need to have a policy and then need to train who in the business is going to use AI because people need to understand what it does well and doesn’t do well,” she says. “Your policy needs to say what permissible uses are and what impermissible uses are.”

 

Impermissible uses could include creating a deep fake video in the workplace.

 

“Even if it’s a joke, you don’t want employees creating deep fakes,” she says, noting the policy should also outline what workplace devices can be used for AI. “If you need to save something because you’re involved in a lawsuit, then you don’t want to it be on an employee’s personal device because you won’t have access to it.”

 

Employees require training

 

As well, Professor Grossman also recommends employees clearly know what AI tools are okay to use and which are not and ensure they are fully trained.

 

“You don’t want them violating intellectual property rules or other privacy rights. You also don’t want them putting into a public tool any confidential or propriety information,” she says. “Some companies have turned off the ability to use these AI tools because they are terrified employees will put propriety information out there while asking a question about a problem they are working on. If you’re using one of these open-source tools, it’s like Google or anything else; it’s free rein.”

 

Professor Grossman says rules and regulations around AI will be gradually strengthened, noting a new regulation coming into play in B.C. pertaining to issues surrounding intimate imagery is just one example.

 

“As soon as this starts making its way more into politics, we will start to see more effort into creating regulations,” she says, referring to a recent ‘deep fake’ image that surfaced of U.S. President Joe Biden.

 

Despite these issues, Professor Grossman says AI is something more businesses will become comfortable using and should embrace this new technology. 

 

“It will save on efficiency,” she says, noting AI can greatly assist in the creation of marketing material. “Companies need to explore it and learn about it but learn about it in safe ways and understand where it can be beneficial and not just let people experiment on their own because that’s going to lead to a lot of trouble.”

 

 

AI hurdles in business

 

  • Data Quality and Availability: AI models require vast amounts of data to learn and make accurate predictions. However, businesses often struggle with data quality issues, such as incomplete, inaccurate, or biased data. Additionally, accessing relevant data across various sources and systems can be challenging.
  • Data Privacy and Security: With the increasing emphasis on data privacy regulations businesses must ensure that AI systems comply. Protecting sensitive customer and business data from unauthorized access or breaches is crucial.
  • Lack of Skilled Talent: There's a significant shortage of professionals with expertise in AI and machine learning. Hiring and retaining skilled data scientists, machine learning engineers, and AI specialists can be difficult and expensive.
  • Integration with Existing Systems: Integrating AI solutions with existing business processes, legacy systems, and IT infrastructure can be complex and time-consuming. Compatibility issues, scalability concerns, and resistance to change within the organization can hinder successful integration.
  • Interpretability and Explainability: AI algorithms often operate as "black boxes," making it challenging to understand how they arrive at specific decisions or predictions. Lack of interpretability and explainability can lead to distrust among stakeholders and regulatory compliance issues.
  • Ethical and Bias Concerns: AI systems may inadvertently perpetuate biases present in the data they were trained on, leading to unfair outcomes or discrimination. Ensuring fairness, transparency, and accountability in AI decision-making processes is essential.
  • Cost and ROI Uncertainty: Implementing AI solutions involves significant upfront investments in technology, infrastructure, talent, and ongoing maintenance. Businesses may struggle to justify these costs and accurately measure the return on investment (ROI) of AI initiatives.
  • Regulatory Compliance and Legal Risks: AI applications in business must comply with various industry-specific regulations and standards. Failure to meet regulatory requirements can result in legal liabilities, fines, and damage to the company's reputation.
  • Change Management and Cultural Resistance: Introducing AI into the workplace often requires significant cultural and organizational changes. Resistance from employees, fear of job displacement, and lack of understanding about AI's potential benefits can impede adoption efforts.
  • Performance and Reliability: AI models may not always perform as expected in real-world environments due to factors like changing data distributions, unexpected scenarios, or adversarial attacks. Ensuring the reliability and robustness of AI systems is crucial for business applications.

 

 

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In this digital landscape, businesses are increasingly reliant on web-based platforms for their operations, communication, and customer interactions.

 

While this technological shift has brought convenience and efficiency, it has also opened the floodgates to a myriad of cyber threats – many no longer just centred on email-based breaches. 

 

As the digital realm expands, the need for robust web-based security becomes paramount for businesses of all sizes due to the escalating frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks.

 

Hackers are becoming more adept at exploiting vulnerabilities, often targeting sensitive data such as customer information, financial records, and intellectual property. The consequences of a successful cyberattack can be devastating, ranging from financial losses and reputational damage to legal repercussions.

 

These security breaches can erode customer trust and a single security incident can shatter the perception of a business as a reliable custodian of sensitive information, leading to a loss of clientele and tarnished brand image.

 

To address these challenges, businesses need to invest in cutting-edge web security solutions. These include regularly updating software and systems, implementing multi-factor authentication, encrypting sensitive data, and conducting regular security audits. Collaborating with cybersecurity experts and staying abreast of the latest threats intelligence is equally crucial in maintaining a proactive defence against emerging cyber hazards.

 

 

We asked John Svazic, Founder and Principal Consultant of EliteSec Information Security Consultants Inc. in Cambridge to share his thoughts on what businesses can do to ensure they are prepared for potential web-based security threats:

 

 

Q. When did more browser-based cyber threats begin to surface as opposed to spam emails?

 

A. This is a hard question to answer, but these types of attacks aren't new and have been around for a while, likely since the early 2000s at least, but not in any volume.  Most cyber-criminal attacks are based on opportunity and ease, so the rise can generally be attributed to companies adding more sophistication to their websites, especially as they try to go online.  

 

Q.  What brought on this apparent shift?

 

A. Opportunity is the biggest reason here.  With the rush to go online, which the pandemic only exacerbated, some companies may be taking shortcuts to get online by going with free/low- cost options to maintain margins.  While I can sympathize with this point, losing most of your margins to fraud may be reason to re-evaluate.

 

Q. Are there warning signs business owners should watch for indicating they might be susceptible to an attack?

 

AUnfortunately, not. The best way to prevent this is to go look for vulnerabilities yourself or get someone who is skilled to go looking for you.  Having said that there are a few things that can be done on your own to better protect yourself, including:

 

  • Making sure all your software is up to date. This is especially important if you are using a Wordpress site to host your online presence. Making sure any plug-ins or add-ons that you are using are up to date is important.
  • Protect your online social media with two-factor authentication (2FA). Yes, this can be annoying, but it is a proven way to protect your accounts. Nothing is more painful than trying to get your Facebook or Instagram account back from a hacker, and many companies either pay up or are forced to create new accounts.
  • Never re-use passwords!  Getting a password manager is incredibly useful to prevent this and provides a great way to help share accounts between employees if necessary. Most can help store your 2FA code as well, so you don't need to share a single phone between individuals.
  • Hire a security professional to do a vulnerability assessment or penetration test of your web presence. Be sure that they are qualified by asking for references and samples of their work.  This is the costliest option but one worth considering if you want to be sure.

 

Q. What is one of the first steps they should take in terms of boosting their security?

 

A. Make sure that whatever you're using is fully patched. If this is offloaded to a hosting company or some other third-party provider, ask them what their patch cycle is. How frequently do they update, and do they do any third-party testing of their own infrastructure?  If a company is doing online sales, using a trusted partner like Shopify, Squarespace, etc., is a great way to check these boxes as these are reputable firms that take security seriously, which helps to offload the risk to someone else, albeit at a cost. 

 

Q. Are smaller businesses more susceptible to potential attacks than larger ones?

 

A. Sadly yes. While news headlines often focus on bigger named companies getting hacked and having to pay ransoms, the reality is that hundreds of smaller companies are getting hacked each day and not making headlines because they're just not big enough to report on, or they're too scared to report the attacks themselves out of fear of losing customers/reputation. Smaller companies often lack the resources or money to seek out help, so it can be a real catch-22.

 

Q.  If an attack has occurred, what should be the first step a business owner should take?

 

A. First check your business insurance to see if you have cyber insurance. Often, these policies will dictate who to call and what to do. Many brokers will recommend this type of insurance if you have an online presence, so it never hurts to start there. As most of these attackers are coming from outside the country, law enforcement won't necessarily be able to help, but report a cybercrime.  Start with the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and report the incident. I would then recommend reaching out to a cybersecurity professional that specializes in incident response to help rectify the situation. Again, if you have a cyber insurance policy, this should be covered by insurance.

 

Q. Is it possible to become too paranoid regarding cyberattacks?

 

A. Absolutely. But it's best to always put things into perspective before things become too overwhelming. If you take some basic precautions, you can put most of these concerns aside.  It's always about perspective and the realization that raising the bar on cybersecurity isn't hard, and even small changes can deter potential attackers. Most cyber criminals are lazy, so they won't put in a lot of effort for minimal rewards. But if they can pull of a hack because it's easy, then they're willing to put in the effort for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars of potential payoff.

 

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Effective leadership communication is the cornerstone of any successful business or organization.

 

A leader's ability to convey their vision, build trust, and inspire others can determine the difference between an average outcome and an extraordinary one.

 

But to arrive at that point requires the ability to be a good listener.

 

“There’s a lot of people that listen but they don’t hear,” says career consultant and corporate soft skills trainer Murray Comber of Life Concepts. “You cannot be a good communicator unless you are a good listener. It’s all about understanding yourself and understanding others.”

 

Since 2001 he has trained more than 8,000 people, noting that many in the workplace don’t realize becoming a better communicator is a very learnable skill.

 

“It’s all about the pattern of human dynamics,” says Murray, adding that boards of education or even in families, do not teach people how they are hard wired. “I teach my clients that. I always say to them you need to know who you are, and you need to know who you are not.”

 

He says at least 71% of companies that fail do so because the leader didn’t understand who they were and who their employees were.


“Good communication is based on a relationship. You don’t communicate with people you don’t relate with,” says Murray, who regularly uses personality and temperament studies to determine a course of action for his clients. “Unless you know how to relate to a person, it’s going nowhere.”

 

He admits this type of soft skills training is often considered ‘fluff’ and is usually one of the first things cut from the budget or put on the backburner when economic times get tough.

 

“The truth is when things are going south, that’s when they should be put on the front-burner,” says Murray. “Training shouldn’t be seen as an expense but as an investment.”

 

In terms of advice for business leaders looking to take their first step at becoming better communicators, he says there must be a willingness to learn and connect with employees not just as a manager with subordinates. 

 

“What I’ve learned is that there is more emphasis put on product knowledge than there is people’s knowledge,” says Murray. “When you respond to what you’ve heard and have listened, you build trust with your employees and good communication is built on trust.”

 

 

To lead effectively, one must be a skilled communicator who can inspire, guide, and unite a team. A few things to consider:

 

  • Active Listening: Leaders must pay close attention to what others are saying, not just with their ears, but also with their eyes and heart. By showing genuine interest and empathy, leaders can better understand their team's needs and concerns, creating a foundation of trust and respect.
  • Clarity and Conciseness: Leaders must articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely. Avoiding jargon and complex language ensures that the message is easily understood by all team members. A clear message prevents confusion and promotes alignment with the leader's vision.
  • Empathy: Leaders who demonstrate empathy can connect on a deeper level with their team members, making them feel valued and understood. This skill helps resolve conflicts, build trust, and foster a positive work environment.
  • Adaptability: Effective leaders are versatile in their communication style. Whether it's a one-on-one conversation, a team meeting, or a public presentation, adaptability ensures that the message resonates with its intended audience.
  • Body Language: Leaders should be aware of their own body language and the signals they convey. Maintaining open and approachable body language encourages a sense of comfort and trust within the team.
  • Feedback and Constructive Criticism: Leaders need to provide feedback and constructive criticism in a manner that is supportive and motivating. Constructive feedback should focus on specific behaviors, offer solutions, and be delivered in a private and respectful setting.
  • Conflict Resolution: Leaders must be skilled in addressing and resolving conflicts, promoting a healthy and productive work environment. Effective communication is essential in facilitating conversations that lead to resolution and growth.
  • Storytelling: Leaders who can weave a narrative around their vision and goals are more likely to capture the hearts and minds of their team members. Storytelling is a powerful tool for making the message memorable and relatable.
  • Consistency: Leaders must align their words with their actions and decisions. When team members can rely on a leader's consistency, they feel secure and are more likely to follow their guidance.
  • Openness to Feedback: Leaders should be open to receiving feedback from their team members and actively seek it out. Constructive criticism can help leaders improve their communication and leadership skills.

 

By honing these skills, leaders can create a positive and productive work environment, foster strong relationships with their teams, and achieve success in their leadership roles.

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Labour shortages remain the persistent challenge for both the corporate sector as well as small business owners who insist the lack of skilled and unskilled workers is the biggest impediment to increasing sales.

 

These shortages are expected to get worse as baby boomers retire, despite the fact the participation rate in the labour market appears to be higher. According to an analysis piece last month in the Globe & Mail, as of February, that participation rate – the proportion of the population 15 or older that is working or looking for a job – was 65.7% which is the same as it was in April 2018.

 

But when it comes to finding people to take on leadership roles, the outlook is much more positive, says leadership coach and expert Julie Dupont, Principal Strategist and Owner of Cambridge-based Reimagine Leadership.

 

“Filling leadership roles hasn’t been a struggle as much as trying to fill the technical or skilled talent roles,” she said. “People are usually happy to step up into a higher pay cheque.”

 

However, with that promotion also comes immense responsibilities which Julie says not all people are able to handle.


“Being a leader requires a different set of skills and mindset,” she says, noting some organizations often struggle to get the right people to fill the right roles. “And when they have them, there’s always this fear they are going to leave.”

 

To mitigate that fear, Julie says personal development is imperative and investing in leadership training will benefit the organization.

 

“You want to spend the money where it counts and that is on your people right now because they need to see there is a future for them,” she says.  “Leadership skills are an investment in long-term success. If an organization makes you feel unvalued, it hurts.”

 

Among the most important skills are the ones centred around emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

 

“These skills are so crucial right now because people need to understand themselves and discover what their triggers are and if they’re going to be resilient,” says Julie. “They need to be able to figure out if what they do works, or if what they do gets in the way of them being successful.”

 

She says an employee can be great at the technical side of their job, but as a leader may not be much of a ‘people person’ and will struggle.

 

“It’s about creating that employee-centred approach and is about valuing each and every person in your care,” says Julie, noting that mindset shift can be very difficult for many people but that times are changing. “We are moving slowly in that direction but it’s a big ship and doesn’t turn on a dime.”

 

In terms of making that change, she says identifying your strengths as a leader is key and reiterates the value of training to create a foundation to help leaders succeed.

 

“When people feel a little more positive in their abilities, they’re likely to give themselves the grace of making better decisions,” says Julie.

 

Five skills to developing good leaders:

 

  • Communication: Great leaders must be great communicators. We need people who can learn when to listen, ask the right questions, and speak words of encouragement and motivation to their staff. These skills can be taught.
  • Accountability: Not only do we need to keep emerging leaders accountable we also need to teach them how to hold their team members accountable. Many emerging leaders have never been taught the skills necessary to manage staff and earn their respect.
  • Time management: Moving people up in our organizations without giving them the skills to manage all the projects, paper and people in a timely manner will lead to burnout or, worse, a broken home life.
  • Servitude: Great leaders serve their people by removing roadblocks to their staff’s success. We need to teach our leaders strategies to empower their people by supporting their efforts.
  • Mentorship: Great leaders mentor and coach their team members so they can be successful. This isn’t a skill that comes naturally for many people. It needs to be taught.

 

•    Source Troy Media

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The amount of information surfacing almost daily surrounding COVID-19 can be daunting, especially for those running a business.

 

Trying to keep customers and employees safe while trying to conduct business has become a real change for many. But there is help available thanks to our ‘Chamber Check’ program.

This free and innovative program powered by Axonify and created in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce offers valuable certification training to business owners and their employees when it comes to operating in a COVID-19 environment.

 

Through our Chamber Business Ready platform, Chamber Check participants are provided with a series of valuable resources, including videos and quizzes designed around various safety issues and potential scenarios that can arise while working in the midst of this pandemic.

 

For Patti Harris-Lindstrom, Office Manager of Towcon Holdings in Cambridge, receiving her Chamber Check certification proved to be a great way to collect additional knowledge.

 

“We’re trying to gather as much information as we possibly can because no one seems to know what this virus is all about,” she says. “We’re trying to take in as much information as we can to make informed decisions.”

 

As they work their way through the interactive and educational tools contained in the training, the knowledge the participants gain is designed to benefit them in the day-to-day operation of their businesses.

 

“We’ve been trying to keep on top of this as much as we possibly can and when this (Chamber Check) came out I decided to take it and see if there is anything we don’t already know,” says Patti, adding there was new information which proved beneficial and would gladly recommend others participate. “It’s very informative.”

 

Sara Chamberlin, Human Resources Manager at the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, discovered the same and is pleased by the training provided.

“I was impressed that dealing with difficult customer service interactions was also part of the training, not just technical processes of wearing PPE,” she says. “This was very useful for our company.”

 

Stephanie Melo, Office Administrator/Health and Safety Co-ordinator at Sousa Concrete, also says the training she and members of her management office team received has been extremely helpful.

 

“One of the major things I learned was there is a difference between sanitation and disinfection,” she says, adding it only took her about an hour to complete the required modules.

 

The program can also be completed in short increments depending on work schedules, which is exactly what Sara did.

 

“It took me approximately two weeks as I did one to three modules a day,” she says.

But regardless of how participants approach it, the training they receive will strengthen the business community by helping create more consumer confidence.

“I knew it would be beneficial for the company to have since we take COVID-19 very serious,” says Stephanie, noting building consumer confidence is vital right now for all businesses. “It is very important since this is a very strange time we are living in.”

Sara agrees and has recommended that all her managers now complete the program.

 

“Any training program we can participate in, we will look into,” she says.

Providing as much support as possible to small businesses, especially now during COVID-19, was the key reason the Chambers developed Chamber Check.

“Being small businesses, it’s in our hands to do what we can to keep people safe, both those who work for us and those who enter our places of business,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “That’s the best defence we have towards keeping our businesses open.”

 

Upon completion of the training participants receive a ‘Chamber Check’ certificate indicating they have received extensive safety education to conduct business in our COVID-19 world, plus the business receives a decal to be placed in a location to let customers know that workplace offers a safe environment.

 

The program, developed in consultation with Region of Waterloo Public Health, is available to not just business owners but any number of their employees who receive an email confirming they have completed the training.

 

“We’re proud to partner with The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce on the Chamber Check program. As a Waterloo‐based business we’re dedicated to doing our part to keep our local residents safe,” said Carol Leaman, Founder and CEO of Axonify.

To get your Chamber Check training, visit www.chambercheck.ca

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Recovery Activation Program expands to Cambridge

 

COVID-19 has changed everything, requiring telecommuting, on-demand delivery and services, supply chain resiliency and virtual collaborations.

 

Even as the province begins to reopen, the pandemic has heightened the urgency for businesses to digitize to survive.

 

To address this change, Toronto Region Board of Trade and World Trade Centre Toronto created the Recovery Activation Program, or RAP. RAP offers businesses the know-how, blueprint and partners to address the conditions that COVID-19 has created by implementing digital solutions to their front, middle and back-offices. It will not only equip them to come through COVID-19 intact, but to thrive.

 

With the support of a $7.7 million investment from the Government of Canada and Government of Ontario, RAP is now expanding to businesses of all sizes throughout the province, including Waterloo Region. The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has been selected as an important partner to help ensure local businesses benefit from the customized services and mentorship that RAP offers.

 

“We’re recruiting for RAP because we believe this program will provide our Members with a great opportunity to move their businesses forward,” says Cambridge Chamber President & CEO Greg Durocher. 

 

By enabling this partnership between the Cambridge Chamber and the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the governments’ investment in RAP will also help make sure at least half of RAP’s participants are based outside of Toronto.

 

“The Recovery Activation Program is a direct response to what we’re hearing from our members and the business community at large: digital tools and services are crucial to success, but challenging to implement,” said Jan De Silva, President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade. “Cambridge’s involvement in this program will result in the digital transformation of businesses outside of Toronto who will now be in a position to shore up their current business offerings, create new businesses opportunities and explore new markets.”

 

Recruitment is now open and interested businesses can apply here.

 

For more information, please contact Cambridge Chamber President & CEO Greg Durocher at 519.622.2221, Ext. 2223, or by email at [email protected].

 

 

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The economic shutdown from COVID-19 may have physically closed many doors but could be opening new ones online for those looking to upgrade their skills or seek new career opportunities.

 

“Usually we’re all so hustled and bustled by everyday life we don’t’ really get the time to reflect,” says Anna Barichello, Associate Chair, Institute of Online Studies at Conestoga College.

 

As a result, she says many people rarely take an opportunity to ask themselves some important questions: Do I like what I’m doing? Am I challenged in my life? Do I want to learn to do something better?

 

Anna says using the shutdown as an opportunity to take online courses could prove very beneficial to some of those in the business community.

 

“If you’re a small business owner and one of your challenges has always been handling accounting, maybe this is the time you could take an accounting fundamentals course?” she says, which is one of more than 260 courses Conestoga College offers as part of its Ed2Go program.

 

Currently, Anna says learning trends indicate there is an even split among people enrolled in online courses with most either looking to upgrade their skills for their current jobs or taking programs that have absolutely nothing to do with their careers.

 

“This could be the time to see if you want to do a career switch,” she says.

According to a recent Globe and Mail article, a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business of the small-and medium-sized businesses it represents suggested approximately one-third that are closed due to COVID-19 aren’t sure they’ll ever reopen.

 

As well, the article states the federal government is looking at ways to speed up the introduction of skills-training to help out-of-work Canadians. The training was targeted to arrive at the end of this year in the form of an annual tax credit and time off through the employment insurance system for workers that wanted to upgrade their skills, or learn something new to help their job hunt.

 

In terms of enrolment for its Ed2GO courses, Anna says Conestoga College has seen about 135 students register this month, which is about typical, but speculates that number will increase. She says her office has been fielding many enquiries.

“At our office, it’s been business as usual.”

 

She says the wide variety of courses – from accounting to writing for children – may be an attraction and so is the convenience. The programs run four weeks in length and take about four hours a week to complete which is ideal for those working remotely at home.

 

“You can do the work on your own time,” says Anna, noting there are no textbooks. “Everything is done online, including assessments.”

 

She admits some may be intimidated at the thought of learning online, since it is not the traditional way many of us were taught.

 

“Sometimes there is a hesitancy; ‘Will I be able to handle the technology?’ or ‘Will I be able to learn in this medium?’,” says Anna. “But what you get from an online course, the learning outcome, is the same as you would get in a face to face course. You are really getting a quality learning experience regardless of the medium.”

 

She says the Ed2GO programs are created by instructional designers who’ve worked to ensure the students focus on the content and not the technical aspects of how its offered.

 

“They’re designed for easy navigation. You don’t really need to have technical skills to be able to go through the course,” says Anna, adding there is tech support available if students are experiencing difficulties. “There are support officers available.”

As well, she says the college does offer career counselling for those who may be unsure what courses they should take, noting the three most popular programs are Accounting Fundamentals, Fundamentals of Supervision and Management, and Introduction to Microsoft Access 2019.

 

Anna herself says she has taken some project management courses offered via Ed2Go.

 

“I thoroughly enjoyed them,” she says.

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