Industry and educators combining to address local skills mismatch

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell

Tired of “seeing jobs with no people and people with no jobs,” the Industry Education Action Taskforce will hold its first event as part of St. Clair College’s Open House Saturday.

The task force was created in April from a wide cross-section of industry and business leaders along with representation from the college and the Greater Essex County District School Board with the aim of addressing the local skills mismatch.

“We want to reverse the trend of young, bright people leaving the area to look for employment opportunities,” said Joe Sirianni, who chairs the task force.

“Our goal is to create a relationship between industry, business and education to address this mismatch between youth and the jobs available.

“We have to get the information to educators to tell kids these careers exists locally. There are some real high-tech opportunities here, but people don’t know.”

The open house runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the college’s main campus. An hour-long panel discussion featuring employers and educators will begin at 11 a.m. in the Student’s Centre.

Among the employers participating in the panel discussion will be representatives from Electromac Group Inc., AlphaKor, Windsor Regional Hospital, Cypher Systems Group, Sunray Group of Hotels, the Greater Essex County District School Board and St. Clair College.

Sirianni said the college’s open house is a natural fit for the group’s first public event as students and their parents are in the process of exploring career and school choices.

“The parents being there is the key for us,” said Sirianni, corporate human resources director for Electromac.

“It’s a chance for us to get our message out about the opportunities here locally. Not every student is meant to follow the university pathway.”

The idea for the task force, which has met four times, came out of Sirianni’s experience with how quickly the public school board reacted in expanding its apprenticeship program in precision metal cutting to Belle River High School.

“I found educators were eager to partner with industry,” Sirianni said.

“It’s easy to blame education for the skills mismatch, but it’s on industry to tell them what our needs are today and what we’ll need tomorrow.

“It’s all our problem to solve.”

GECDSB superintendent of education Dan Fister said the task force is essentially taking the relationship the board has with industry through its successful OYAP programs and expanding it to across all industries and businesses in the area.

“It identifies information and opportunities and connects the key players in the community,” Fister said. “It better co-ordinates the communication piece.

“All these community leaders involved have connections in their own sectors. It’s a multiplier effect.

“We can make connections and learn what needs to be done in a way we never could before.”

Fister said one of the next steps is a Dec. 10 presentation the taskforce will make to the board’s guidance/career counsellors, teachers and other officials in the Student Success program.

The targets for all this effort are students and their parents.

“The benefits of this is it’ll help kids understand there are number of different career pathways available to them if they wish to remain in the area,” Fister said.