By Greg Bobinec
Alta Newspaper Group – Lethbridge
With southwestern Alberta’s economy traditionally being strong, vibrant and diversified, the region is not immune to the economic headwinds facing the province. To help ensure the region continues to be a great place to live, work and do business, it is vital to have a workforce educated in the skills businesses need to thrive.
To help support the local economy, a group of seven partners have come together in a collaborative partnership to explore the skills needs of employers in southwestern Alberta. The Southwest Alberta Regional Skills Study will collect feedback from employers and job seekers across the region to better understand the region’s labour market strengths and challenges, and the skills needed to ensure a strong and vibrant economy into the future.
The study is a collaboration between the Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance, Community Futures Alberta Southwest, Economic Development Lethbridge, Lethbridge College, SouthGrow Regional Initiative, the Town of Taber and Vulcan County.
“Lethbridge College’s mission is provide opportunities and programming that support the region’s economic and social needs,” says Paula Burns, Lethbridge College president and CEO. “This study and our work with these key partners will help us identify further areas that we can explore to make sure we are providing the skilled employees that our region needs to thrive.”
This study is jointly funded by the ministry of Alberta Labour and Immigration, and the partnered organizations. The study began March 2 and will include a combination of interviews, surveys and focus groups to collect community feedback. The first initiative is the launch of business and job-seeker surveys that will be distributed to community stakeholders.
“Our region is dealing with the problems of success,” says Coutts Mayor Jim Willett, chairperson of SouthGrow Regional Economic Development. “A lack of labour supply continually shows up as one of the top issues for many of our 26 communities who are experiencing sustainable growth in various sectors, particularly agri-food, energy and manufacturing. This study will help inform our efforts to meet that demand.”
Along with the assessment, the partner organizations are looking for feedback from people in southwest Alberta who are seeking employment. Anyone who meets this criteria is encouraged to fill out the Job Seeker Survey online. Anyone who fills out the survey will be entered into a draw for a $500 prize.
“Workforce is one of the areas we always talk about an advantage for our area,” says Stirling Mayor Trevor Lewington, EDL CEO. “When compared with other areas, Lethbridge has one of the most youthful workforces in the country and with two world-class post-secondary institutions that workforce is very well prepared with the skills needed to contribute and innovate within southwest Alberta.”
The Province of Alberta is working in partnership with the Government of Canada to provide employment support programs and services.