Group offers the latest on city's job trends

by Karen Ferguson

(originally published December 2011)

 

        For those of us pondering a change in our working lives, big or small, a question that inevitably surfaces as we flip through the college and university calendars, is But where are they hiring? Or maybe, Who will be hiring when I graduate?

        These questions aren’t easily answered. It quickly becomes clear that there may be no straight line from a completed educational program to a related job, with many factors and risks to be weighed. For us, labour market information is one of the starting points to help ease the risk and help us make the best possible decision.

        One of the best sources for information and insight about where the jobs are and where they are emerging in Toronto, is the Toronto Workforce Innovation Group (TWIG). One of 25 “workforce planning groups” found across Ontario, TWIG is financially supported by the provincial government and governed by representatives from business, labour, education, and some special interest communities.

"Our job is to tell the story of our labour market"

        “Our job is to tell the story of our labour market,” says Karen Lior, TWIG’s Executive Director. “We focus on issues specific to Toronto, give resonance to labour market changes and issues, and we strive to make that information accessible.”

        Ms. Lior and her staff start with government data generated by the census, then seek out and mine data created by other sources such as university researchers, business, and professional organizations. They, like the other groups, compile a state-of-the-union type of report every year, called the TOP Report -- Toronto’s Opportunities and Priorities, Local Labour Market Update.

        The 2011 report’s “Sectors to Watch” looks at the retail trade, construction, arts and culture, and information and communications technology (ICT). For example, for the retail trade sector, “..there is an increasing need for qualified professionals who are experts in their field, such as store managers, as well as experts in administration and management. The retirement rate for store managers is higher than average and has created numerous opportunities. The unemployment rate in this sector is considerably below the national average.

        “Jobs in the Retail Sector are requiring higher and higher levels of expertise and experience, somewhat driven by the technological changes in inventory, sales and marketing. This trend is now affecting small businesses, which in turn are tooling up and training themselves on new technologies.”

        Emerging themes and priorities in the labour market are also identified. Top of the list is the growing “green economy”: “New opportunities for ‘green’ careers are arising in response to a surge in

Green jobs on the rise

demand. These careers include environmental auditors, environmental engineers, solar panel installers and technicians who can manufacture and build wind turbines. Much of this is in response to the rising cost of oil and interest in renewable sources of energy, as well as increasing demand for local food and growing emphasis on local and/or environmentally safe products.”

        Also cited as emerging themes and priorities are diversity, economic transformation, and technological advancement.

        The TOP report is only the starting point for TWIG’s reporting. Ms. Lior cites three key works in recent years, among many other works, which have proven pivotal in how we think about Toronto’s labour market, and perhaps further afield.

        2010’s  An Economy Out of Shape: Changing the Hourglass identified a top-heavy proportion of knowledge-based jobs in Toronto, when, “in the rest of Ontario, the hourglass is bottom-heavy, with a higher proportion of (e)ntry-level jobs.”

        Planning to Succeed in Toronto examined workforce planning initiatives undertaken in Chicago, Philadelphia, Dublin, Berlin, and London, England, and offers recommendations for consideration in the development and implementation of labour market planning in Toronto and Ontario.

        The recently released Greening the Economy - Transitioning to New Careers: Career Profiles was produced by TWIG and the workforce development boards in Peel Halton and York Region, Brantford, West Gwillimbury, and is an inventory of “green jobs” and their educational and skill requirements (including most important high school subjects needed), the numbers of people working in that occupation at various ages, and current salaries in the field. From agrologists to building supplies distributors, financial services

"High school counsellors and job developers

love the TOP report - it's solid data"

occupations, environmental economists, property managers, and refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics, information about 72 occupations in transition in response to the greening of jobs, is presented. Indeed, the transition to “green jobs” is so significant, we now speak of “green collar jobs.”

        That’s only a fraction of the data TWIG has to offer.

        “High school guidance counsellors and job developers love the TOP report. It’s solid data,” says Ms. Lior. “Our website tracking tells us that people from 20 countries use our information to plan their migration to Canada or Toronto.

         “We also know,” she continued, “that the report is used by local training and employment services to develop programs and proposals.”

        The good news, says Ms. Lior, is that TWIG has a website revamp in the works which will feature more easily accessible data, less reading of reports. The newly designed site is expected to launch by the end of November.

        In the meantime, says Ms. Lior, the recent significant shifts in Toronto’s labour market include a shift away from big manufacturing to “boutique” manufacturing, a focus on information communication technology (ITC, Toronto is the third largest employer city in North America) and the soaring demand for digital literacy skills across occupations.

        “An inability to manage and manipulate technical devices, as I would describe it, from the simple to the complex -- barcode scanners and inventory devices are only the beginning -- is a shortcoming of Toronto’s workforce. For all sectors and all occupations, the impact is coming.”

No training shortages

        There are no occupational areas in Toronto, says Ms. Lior, where there is a training or educational shortage.

        “The problem is that many people can’t afford training.” The supports that were at one time in place for people to retrain and upgrade, she says, simply are no longer available.For more information, check out TWIG at workforceinnovation.ca.

      As well, the group has a monthly e-bulletin on labour market and employment trends in Toronto, which you can sign up for on their homepage. Those who might appreciate a clipping service on the topic, “like” TWIG on facebook.

 

Karen Ferguson, former Executive Director of The Workers' Educational Association, is an instructor with the Workplace Communications in Canada program at Laurentian University.

Toronto, Canada