For the last three years, the Ontario East Talent Identification Support Project (OE-TISP), delivered by the Ontario East Economic Development Commission (Ontario East) and funded through the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, has been bringing both talent and industry investments to Eastern Ontario.
Alysha Dominico, the program’s workforce development project coordinator, has been on the front lines during that time, making connections for Ontario East that were unheard of before thanks to the ecosystem the Ontario East Economic Development Commission has built.
“We have partnerships with more than 40 organizations and businesses involved in workforce development, and my role is to wrap my arms around the region and bring everybody together,” said Dominico. “I find out who’s doing what, invite them along, and give them space to collaborate.”
That means Ontario East members like municipalities, industrial associations, and education consortiums — groups who used to work in isolation — are solving problems and sharing solutions that affect the entire region. “I can see the connections and make introductions so the sparks can start happening, “ said Dominico. “It’s how you get big ideas off the ground.”
Dominico says this approach is lovingly known as “rob and duplicate”, which is R&D for the public sector. “What’s good for Renfrew is good for Peterborough,” she said, especially when it comes to filling the talent pipeline.
Eastern Ontario businesses have already benefited from the program’s work, like window-maker Beclawat Manufacturing Inc.
“The service Alysha provided was very proactive,” said Shayla Martin, human resources and health and safety manager. “She was invaluable from the first interaction about our job posting, to staying in touch with us regarding candidates, and even going above and beyond to put us in contact with more resources in the community.” The result? A successful hire through their LinkedIn posting.
Building bridges across the province
One of the key groups Dominico works with is Skills Ontario, a provincial non-profit organization funded by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Skills Development.
“We promote careers in skilled trades and technologies to youth, working with every school board across the province, and every college across the province — English, French, you name it,” said Dan Cardinal, senior provincial engagement coordinator. “We have all kinds of programs for young women in trades and other initiatives to support diversity, inclusion and equity.”
Together, they’re tackling the need to bring more youth into the skilled trades due to the region’s ever-increasing demand for talent in that sector. “Alysha has given me opportunities to speak to different economic development offices across the region in Eastern Ontario,” said Cardinal. “The partnerships have been phenomenal.”
While virtual working capabilities made it easier for regions to connect with one another, it helps that Dominco and Cardinal are in sync, ensuring both the students and employers they work with feel supported.
“I remember being a young working professional back when you didn’t know who to call for advice,” said Cardinal. “And I remember the loneliness of trying to work on my own — that’s the power of this network.”
Although connecting with students is a big priority for the region, the Ontario East also works closely with career professionals, new Canadians, and recent graduates looking for employment. With interest from major companies in the region growing, demand for talent is on the rise.
Collaborate and amplify
None of this collaboration would mean anything without amplifying the message to everyone who needs it.
That’s why another key part of this Ontario East initiative is ensuring that job seekers and employers alike have the tools they need to be successful. Working closely with its partners, the program has developed an SEO-optimized blog, chock full of useful information for both audiences on topics for employers like hiring international students, and tips for newcomers to find training and jobs in the region.
“We know there are people overseas looking at our job-seeker information and they want to know what the quality of life is like in the region,” said Dominico. “We market our rural spaces and the communities that have been ranked as top places to live in Canada.”
In the end, it’s about making connections between people in Eastern Ontario who need each other. “It’s very, very hard to share the benefits of collaboration if you’re not all coming together,” said Dominico. “We exist because geographically we’re a big region. But municipal boundaries are only relevant to the people who made those boundaries.”
From one “aha” moment to another, OE-TISP and the Ontario East are helping to drive economic growth and change in Eastern Ontario.