About a dozen industry sector councils in Manitoba are going to be able to work with beefed-up funding for the next four years, many of them using the additional resources to address labour shortages and skills gaps.
The province announced it is upping its funding for the sector council program by about 40 per cent per year to a total of $10.1 million annually for the next four years.
In addition to eliminating the hand wringing over funding uncertainty that distracts the sector council managers from the work at hand, the additional financial breathing room will allow many to bear down and address some of the critical post-pandemic labour-force challenges.
For instance, Carol Paul, executive director of the Manitoba Construction Sector Council, said it will now be able to fast-track curriculum development for an architectural cladding certificate, something that in the past required Manitobans to spent $13,000 at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
The funding will support a new Film Sector Council that had been part of Creative Manitoba and has also added the Manitoba Trucking Association to the sector council program.
Aaron Dolyniuk, the executive director of the trucking association, said it has been trying to join the program for more than 10 years. In the past the industry had been represented broadly by Supply Chain Canada.
The new $400,000 it will receive per year will be managed and handled separately from mainstream trucking association operations.
“We’ll use that money to staff programs to support our workforce,” Dolyniuk said. “It’s a lot, but there is a lot to do and a lot of opportunities.”
He said the trucking industry is going to need 4,300 new drivers over the next four years and is facing a critically aging workforce with the average age of drivers more than 55 years old.
Economic Development, Investment and Trade Minister Jeff Wharton stressed the importance of the work the sector councils do to support and drive the Manitoba economy.
“They are the grassroots. They are the boots on the ground. They are doing the heavy lifting,” he said.
While diversification in the Manitoba economy shields it from severe volatility experienced in other jurisdictions, it is also challenging because the diversification often comes in the form of many small firms operating across many sectors, firms that might need more support from groups such as the sector councils.
Kim Kline, president of the Bioscience Association of Manitoba, said a lot of her members are small companies with fewer than 50 employees.
“For instance, we can provide human resource support for companies that do not have their own HR professionals. Many of them would have a hard time finding support if not for us,” she said.
The sector council program is designed to encourage collaboration and to help leverage resources from elsewhere, Wharton said.
Jack Winram, the executive director of the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association believes that funding may leverage as much five-to-seven times more in additional resources.
He said his group invested $12,500 to take part in a program alongside a number of other organizations, including Efficiency Manitoba, RRC Polytech and the Manitoba Construction Sector Council, that leveraged a $900,000 grant from Natural Resources Canada to develop a certified energy adviser course so they can conduct home energy audits that can make homeowners eligible for grants and tax credits.
Before the program began there were only three such certified advisers in the province.
There are now close to 40 and a growing number of subsidies and credits offered by federal and provincial governments regarding reduced energy consumption in homes, such that the program could actually be worth tens of millions of dollars to the provincial economy.
Since 2019, the province figures that sector councils have leveraged an additional $28.2 million in industry funding and supported more than 9,200 companies and 167,000 participants.
In addition to enhanced skills development and recruitment that each of the sectors might be engaged in, the program is also designed to focus on helping businesses employ workers from under-represented groups.
News source: Winnipeg Free Press