Ontario Chamber of Commerce focused on addressing skills gap, says Rossi

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When it comes to the economy, there are a lot things working to Ontario and Canada’s advantage, but there is one area that needs to be addressed – the skills gap.

That was the message Ontario Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Rocco Rossi delivered as guest speaker of the 85th annual Rotary Club of Chatham annual banquet on Friday.

When we survey our (135) members, 75 per cent list the skills gap as the No. 1 issue facing their companies,” Rossi told The Chatham Daily News in an interview.

The days of someone spending 35 years with one company in the same job is a thing of the past, he said.

With that in mind, Rossi said, “How do we do a better job of transitioning our young people into work? And how do we create a culture of lifelong learning so that people can retrain as jobs evolve and change?”

He noted there still seems to be a stigma surrounding the skilled trades.

I’m the perfect example. I’m the child of immigrants,” Rossi said.


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He noted his parents came to Canada from Italy and worked hard at manual jobs, but never wanted to see him on a construction site pushing a wheelbarrow or swinging a hammer.

He added their goal was for him to go to university to get a job where you wear a suit and come home every night with your hands clean.

However, Rossi said he knows plumbers who run million-dollar businesses and can afford such luxuries as summer homes.

Our economy is in desperate need of these trained individuals because the average age of journeyman in most of the trades in Ontario is closing in on 60, so this is a real problem and it’s a real opportunity and we need to expose kids to those opportunities,” he said.

One thing the Ontario chamber is working on strongly with member chambers, as well as with Queen’s Park and boards of education, is “how do we share the load on that training to give people the best opportunity.”

He said the impact of a skills gap on a major manufacturer is different than a small shop with five employees because larger companies have human resources departments and in-house training.

So how do we build that capacity and share skills across the small and medium-size sector?” Rossi said.

Alysson Storey, past-president of the Rotary Club said, the club was proud of the calibre of speakers invited to its annual banquet.

“Mr. Rossi is certainly no exception,” she said.

She said Rotary began as a business organization more than a century ago and remains primarily made up of small business owners, especially in smaller communities like Chatham.

It’s going to be a perfect topic and subject matter for us,” Storey said of Rossi’s talk.



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