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Urban Cowboy: New program aims to attract more workers to Wellington

'Due to demographic shifts and public perceptions, agricultural businesses often experience challenges finding qualified candidates'
Urban Cowboy is Owen Roberts' weekly look at agriculture and food in Guelph.

For employers, the downside of operating a business in a vibrant region like Wellington County is labour. Here, where unemployment levels are among the lowest in the country, the labour market situation has become a real problem.

The solution? More people.

“We need new residents and more labour force participants to help businesses grow and expand to their full potential,” says the county’s Economic Development Committee Chair George Bridge.

In response, a new program called Live and Work Wellington is underway. It was launched last month to recruit talent by promoting Wellington County as a desirable place to live and work.

The program’s goal is to make connections between employers and job-seekers, and attracting new groups to offset declining population trends. Part of the plan is to help employers improve their attraction and retention of Millennials.

Tom Lusis, who’s in charge of the county’s talent attraction initiative, says agriculture and related industries are central to these efforts, as one of the primary sectors of Wellington County’s economy.

“Due to demographic shifts and public perceptions, agricultural businesses often experience challenges finding qualified candidates,” he says.

Lusis says openings in this sector range from technical and specialized positions in production to general labour. And it’s projected that demand for workers in this sector will continue to remain high in the next few years.

This is not just a Wellington County problem – the entire agriculture continues to struggle to find willing and qualified workers. It’s intensified, though, when there are even fewer workers available than average, as is the case here.

Live and Work Wellington is planning to grow the workforce through numerous projects. These include developing partnerships with the University of Guelph and Conestoga College to raise awareness of employment opportunities in Wellington County to students, and the supports available for employers at these institutions.

Other initiatives include developing and promoting a Wellington County on-line job board highlighting local employment opportunities.

As well, the project will work with employers and member municipalities to support the growth of existing immigrant communities in rural areas, facilitate immigration and employment workshops for international students designed to improve the economic integration of this group in Wellington County, and work with Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington to promote and connect immigrants to employment opportunities in Wellington County.

I’m glad to see the program plans to promote Wellington County to regional, national and international audiences. Attracting people to an area unfamiliar to them requires a commitment to marketing.

So, what do you find attractive about living and working in Wellington County? Please chime in, in the comments section below.