Amy Porteous (Maxville Manor), Joy Cella (Cornwall Community Hospital), and Shelly Harding (Olymel) explained their unique approach to helping temporary workers tackle the difficult process of obtaining housing, and in doing so perhaps convince them that this might be the place they want to call home rather than just be a stop along the way. Tinkess Photo

CORNWALL – Nearly every seat was filled on Tuesday morning for a Cornwall and SD&G employer seminar which focused on attracting and retaining employees.

The event was held at the Ramada Inn on Brookdale Avenue in Cornwall and featured a hot breakfast and an opportunity to network.  This event was presented by the City of Cornwall Economic Development and delivered by the Social Development Council of Cornwall and Area. This event is made possible with funding from the Rural Economic Development Program managed by OMAFRA and partnership support from ACCFutures, Cornwall & Area Chamber of Commerce, Cornwall SDG Business Enterprise Centre, Cornwall Tourism, Eastern Ontario Training Board, Glengarry Interagency Group, Immigration Cornwall, Job Zone d’emploi, Manufacturing Consortium Manager, Ministry of Economic Development Job Creation and Trade, Newcomer Employment Welcome Services, Local Immigration Partnership, St. Lawrence College, The United Counties of SD&G and WCG – Employment Ontario.

Following a welcome and the land acknowledgement, by Carilyne Hebert (Social Development Council) and Kat Rendek (City of Cornwall), Cornwall Mayor Justin Towndale and Bob Peters, Cornwall Manager of Economic Development. The individual seminars got underway.  Each of the four concentrated on a different area of interest:

  • Competitive hiring and retention practices in 2024
  • Capturing the potential of the new Canadian workforce
  • Employer-led workforce housing and accommodation
  • Growing and harvesting local talent

Competitive hiring and retention practices in 2024 was moderated by Martha Woods, of the Eastern Ontario Training Board (EOTB) and featured insights from Kayla MacGillivray (Glengarry Memorial Hospital), Kimberly Arbic (Job Zone d’emploi), Jason Jesmer, Drake International, Lara Dyer (Talent Beyond Borders), and Rene Paul Gamis (Walmart). Each responded to a series of questions, providing insight into how to attract and keep employees in what is a competitive market. Key points included salary transparency, and non-monetary benefits. It was also noted that people are looking for more than a job, and are considering things like availability of doctors, recreational activities, housing availability and costs and presence of family and friends.

The second presentation was given by Nadia Faggiani and Scott Felman, outreach officers with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Their presentation entitled Capturing the potential of the new Canadian workforce, dealt with the often-confusing process of hiring “newcomers” and the various processes and categories that exist. It was stressed that “not knowing” is never a valid excuse, and that in many cases the foreign worker may be better informed on the process than the potential employer. By working with IRCC however, it is possible to ensure that no regulation is overlooked, and much of the paperwork can be completed before a potential employee arrives at the employer’s door.

After a short break, the third presentation, Employer-led  workplace housing and accommodation, moderated by Cristian Urroz of the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce. In this panel were Amy Porteous (Maxville Manor), Joy Cella (Cornwall Community Hospital), and Shelly Harding (Olymel). Each of these organizations utilize workers from outside the area to supplement local staff. Maxville Manor employs foreign-trained nurses as personal support workers, the Cornwall Hospital regularly has doctors from other areas who fill-in as needed, while Olymel regularly uses temporary foreign workers in their operation. While the circumstances and the role played by the workers may be different, the need for housing is not, and each organization has found ways to be able to help eliminate that concern, where do I live, from the equation, through relationships with local hotels and Air BnB’s, as well as leasing entire houses and subleasing accommodation to their new employees.

The final presentation of the morning was given by Jennifer Haley, Dean of the Cornwall Campus of St. Lawrence College. After updating the audience on what programs are available on the Cornwall Campus, Haley moderated the remainder of the presentation which included insights from Daniel Liao (Dean of Applied Science, Technology and Trades), Laurie Millard (manager of Skill, Training and Economic Development), Deborah Anne Kieley (manager Continuing Production), and Saima Naqvi (Professor, Project Management).

The emphasis of the St. Lawrence College presentation was that businesses don’t have to send their employees away for training, because so many things are available locally and there are many ways that St. Lawrence College can develop custom solutions. Additionally, interest is always welcome from those who are interested in becoming a part of a program advisory board, or by offering placement opportunities.

The take-away from the information-filled morning was that there are solutions available for labour shortages, but the days of offering only a job are long gone. Potential employees today are looking for the best situation overall for them and their families, and if you want to recruit and retain the best employees, you need to show them that this area could be a destination, not just a stop along the way.