A new program is targeting Eastern Ontario in a bid to connect businesses to an “untapped” source of talent: retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Veteran Friendly Ontario was launched last week by True Patriot Love, a national charity dedicated to supporting military veterans and families, along with Toronto-based research and consulting agency Challenge Factory.
Supported by provincial funding, the program will connect veterans with employers, helping to create networks and encourage communication and learning.
The 24th edition of the World Partnership Golf returned to Camelot Golf & Country Club on Sept. 11 with a sold-out event and a record-setting fundraising total.
Although the project is province-wide, there is an initial focus on areas like Kingston and Petawawa and their existing military communities.
When Rob Tamblyn, manager of business development for small and medium businesses at Kingston Economic Development Corporation, “got the call” from True Patriot Love about the program, he said it “immediately piqued my interest.”
“It’s a really unique program that allows us to tap into that hidden, untapped potential. If there’s a hidden pool of talent that’s looking for work, we can do the work to make that match,” he said. “Because with all our consultations, what we hear is that businesses just can’t find workers and I think that this program potentially can make that match.”
According to the 2021 census, almost 150,000 veterans are in the core working-age group. Each year, more than 8,000 Canadian Armed Forces members transition from the military to civilian life.
Susan Gallimore, the project manager of programs at True Patriot Love, said a large component of creating a smooth transition from military to civilian life for veterans involves employment.
“This project came about because we do work on the mental health side and there’s an important part of mental health with the transition to employment,” she said. “It’s a unique transition with lots of components, but getting into a good, satisfying job and staying in it, finding a good fit, is a big part of it.”
The program will run until March 2024 but could have lasting impacts on the Ontario workforce, Gallimore explained.
“We hope that the work we do with them is going to lead to some mechanism, some better understanding of how big employers can better support veterans and what we learn we can roll out across the country to become more veteran-friendly,” she said.
“We’re looking at a whole change. One of the outputs is to find out what tools (employers) have, what they’re using, and gain an understanding of where the gaps are and what tools they might need.”
Challenge Factory will connect veterans to employers, “aligning both sides of the equation,” explained vice-president of leadership and consulting Emree Siarof.
“One of the key areas we focus on, one of our philosophies, is we hate to see wasted talent and there’s lots of hidden talent with veterans that employers are not taking advantage of,” Siarof said. “We want to help businesses see what’s out there and help them access that.
“Our hope is that the work we’re doing has a longer life. The objective is to impact the lives of vets and their families and the challenges businesses are facing around labour,” continued Siarof.
The Kingston Economic Development Corporation would like to further support Veteran Friendly Ontario, Tamblyn said.
“The (talent) problem really started during COVID and it’s gotten better but we’ve certainly got a long way to go. It doesn’t matter what sector, businesses are looking for workers,” said Tamblyn. “Right now, we’re just sending out promotions, but we’d be happy to do more. We’re just trying to be a conduit.”