New Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation a collaborative approach to urgent workforce challenges

TORONTO, Feb. 22, 2016 /CNW/ - A consortium of partners led by Ryerson University is pleased to announce a new Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation (OCWI). The initiative is funded by a $7.5 million grant over two years from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

The OCWI will offer a single, coordinated access point for research on evidence-based employment and training approaches for key stakeholders in Ontario. Recent studies point to an urgent need to recalibrate employment service systems to better align with employer demands and needs. The Centre is bringing together partners across the workforce development ecosystem to bridge supply and demand side perspectives and reflect diverse interests.

The Centre's overarching goals are to address employer needs for talent and Ontario's most urgent workforce development challenges related to underemployment and unemployment. In addition, the OCWI will both conduct research and develop innovative projects and approaches to help address Ontario's labour market needs.

The initiative brings together leading employment organizations, academia and business associations that are committed to building employment capacity using the latest evidence-based approaches. The partners include: the Ontario Chamber of Commerce; the Workforce Planning Ontario Network; Humber College, Collège Boréal, Ontario Disability Employment Network, Social Capital Partners, George Brown College, COFA (Coalition for Adult Training in Ontario), Ryerson University, Lakehead University and Brock University.

To ensure broad support and inclusivity across Ontario the Centre will operate four hubs -- North (Thunder Bay), East (Ganonoque/Kingston), Central (Toronto) and West (London). The hubs will be interconnected in their sharing of best practices and work together to mobilize communities toward more effective practices. There will also be a Francophone coordinating centre in Sudbury.

"The Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation brings together key organizations who have the potential to transform the way in which we address the demand for talent by employers on the one hand and the unemployment and under employment of job seekers on the other." says Wendy Cukier, Vice President, Research and Innovation, Ryerson University and Chair of the OCWI Working Group.

"These issues are particularly challenging in some regions and for some segments of the population. By building on solid research, bringing together the shared wisdom of players from across sectors and rigorously examining opportunities for new and effective approaches, we can find solutions to one of the most challenging issues facing the province. We are delighted to be part of this important initiative and are confident it will drive economic and social development."

According to Ontario Chamber of Commerce CEO, Allan O'Dette, research shows almost one-third of small businesses in Ontario do not have the talent they need. "Ontario's economy is facing a labour force challenge. There are far too many people without jobs and far too many employers in need of people with the right skills. Building a 21st century workforce is a key priority area of our Emerging Stronger agenda, which focuses on fostering greater connections between graduates and employers to ensure Ontario has the skilled workforce it needs to compete in the global economy."

OWCI has a tight timeline and work has already begun to build the basic infrastructure, to review the current state of research, to consult widely on the opportunities and promising practices and to develop the regional hubs.

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Additional quotes:

Reza Moridi, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities 
"Our government believes that all people, regardless of background or circumstance, should have access to effective employment and training programs that give them the skills they need to succeed. I want to congratulate Ryerson and its partners in their new role leading the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation, which will bring great value to the province's employment and training system. This centre is ultimately focused on getting the best results possible for Ontario's jobseekers, and I believe it will make a very positive impact helping meet local labour market challenges in this province."

Dr. Mohamed Lachemi, Interim President and Vice Chancellor, Ryerson University
"Ryerson has a strong track record for applied research to meet societal needs, for developing career oriented education to meet the needs of employers, and for developing innovative solutions to challenges facing society. The DMZ is the top ranked university incubator in North America and it was there that Magnet was born. The Chang School of Continuing Education is home to a range of one of a kind training and is a pioneer in e-learning. We are delighted to host the OCWI and look forward to a productive collaboration with the partners."

Dr. Brian Stevenson, President, Lakehead University
"Lakehead University is excited to be a partner in the Centre for Workforce Innovation. Our research capacity and our strong connection to the Indigenous community through our Faculties and Lakehead's Aboriginal Initiatives Office will ensure the needs of Northwestern Ontario and rural indigenous peoples have a strong voice in this important initiative."

Dr. Jack N. Lightstone, President and Vice-Chancellor of Brock University
"Our University is a critical player in the economic and social development of the Niagara region and we need to work together with stakeholders across sectors - business, government, post-secondary, training, and community groups - in order to develop solutions. This project provides a great opportunity to draw on our deep expertise in research related to education, training and economic development as well as to build collaborative approaches to solving one of Ontario's great challenges."

Chris Whitaker, President, Humber College:
"Humber College is pleased to be a partner in the development and implementation of this important and timely Centre that will assist all stakeholders in developing innovative solutions for a strong and inclusive workforce that will drive social and economic development in the Province"

Daniel Giroux, Vice-President, Workforce and Business Development, Collège Boréal
"Collège Boréal has a wealth of training and employment experience allowing it to significantly contribute to the preparation of a bilingual workforce throughout Ontario. As a proud partner of the new Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation, we believe we can add value and provide insight so that together, we can build a resilient, innovative and productive Ontario."

Karen Charnow Lior, Executive Director, Toronto Workforce Innovation Group
"Toronto Workforce Innovation Group, representing Workforce Planning Ontario, is delighted to be part of the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation. Bringing diverse labour market partners together around one table to develop an evidence-based workforce development strategy is what workforce planning boards were created to do; conduct research, convene stakeholders and address workforce development issues and opportunities."

Joe Dale, Executive Director, Ontario Disability Employment Network
"The Ontario Disability Employment Network is looking forward to research that identifies the best way to help people who have a disability become more fully engaged in the labour market."

Bill Young, President, Social Capital Partners
"For over 10 years SCP has tested new models to improve access to employment for jobseekers that have experienced barriers to employment. The single most important thing we have learned from our work is that when employers are involved in the design of employment and training programs and supports better results are achieved for both employers and jobseekers. Encouraging new public/private partnerships and demonstrating what works and what doesn't will allow the Centre to better address and support the needs of employers and jobseekers alike."

Robert Luke, Ph.D., Vice President, Research and Innovation, George Brown College 
"George Brown College is very pleased to support the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation. This initiative, bringing together many leading partners engaged in labour market issues, is highly aligned with our mandate to ensure the Greater Toronto Area has effective workforce preparation and we can collectively ensure the labour market demand is met with a supply of highly qualified graduates from the across the post-secondary spectrum. We look forward to working with our partners and ensuring the success of this exciting initiative."

Michel Robillard, Directeur général, COFA (Coalition for Adult Training in Ontario)
"As a privileged partner, COFA is proud to take part in the creation of the Ontario Centre for Workplace innovation. This centre, acting as a key organization, will offer a single, coordinated access point for evidence-based research on employment and training approaches for key stakeholders such as the Employment Ontario network. The Centre will bring together partners across the workforce system and bridge supplies and demands related to the workforce development ecosystem."

SOURCE Ryerson University

For further information: Dave Bennett, Xposure PR,, 905 339 6668, @xposureprdave; Leslie Booth, Xposure PR,, 416 427 1558, @xposurepr


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