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Small businesses get injection of support to tackle skills gaps, labour shortages


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in four regions of Canada will get a much needed boost backed by 50 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, as many have faced acute labour market disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and need critical access to resources and tools to bolster skill development and talent retention to support future growth.

On Nov. 8, the Future Skills Centre (FSC) announced it is investing $3.7 million in a partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to launch an online training and learning management platform that will support at least 200 small businesses in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

According to a news release, the platform will include curated content that builds on work spearheaded by the Diversity Institute and utilize Magnet’s technical infrastructure to connect users to the content.

SMEs will be able to access a wide variety of free resources including ones on leadership, diversity and inclusion, mental health and wellness, digital skills and regulatory compliance. These will be in the form of short courses, e-learning modules and other workforce tools.

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This investment is part of FSC’s strategy to test approaches that anticipate and address labour market disruption and invest in research and training partnerships that prepare people for the future of work.

“We know that many businesses work on tight margins with not much extra time or money to figure out a skills strategy for their workforce,” said – Pedro Barata, executive director of the Future Skills Centre in Toronto.

“Through this innovative collaboration, we’re working side by side to help small businesses address the challenges they face in shifting to new business models and having a place to turn to for support in learning new skills. Building business solutions by creating digital tools and resources is crucial for the workforce of the future.”

Quick Facts

  • A centralized digital library will host curated and shareable content such as resources and tools in a number critical topics and unlock organizational human resources capacity for SMEs.
  • Training content will be identified, sourced and validated to meet the needs of SMEs across Canada, including at least 30% of SMEs led by equity-seeking groups. Training on diversity and inclusion aims to reduce hiring barriers for these groups.
  • Businesses will develop, submit and digitize their own learning content to share with other SMEs. Content can also be adapted to ensure it meets users’ needs.

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