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Planning for the area’s post-pandemic recovery

Charlene Hofbauer, executive director of the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin, last week released a new report detailing a post-pandemic recovery for the area. [Sean Heeger]

While the full extent of the pandemic’s damage to the economy will not be known for some time – and the recovery is expected to take even longer – the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin already knows that it will be a team effort to get back on track and save local businesses.

Starting last August, the board undertook a study of the labour market to find out the programs, practices and other things which will have to be put in place to address the needs of the market over the next 12 to 24 months.

The end result of the study, ‘Post-Pandemic Economic Scenario Planning Report,’ came in the form of determining the most volatile uncertainties businesses will face, scenarios under which businesses can fall, and recommendations to follow as the recovery begins.

“It may be a little early to talk about recovery, and post-pandemic economies and things like that, but I think if we really want to be proactive on where we’re going to go coming out of this, and stay on top of rebuilding our economy in our communities, we need to start thinking about what the immediate future may shape up to be,” said Charlene Hofbauer, executive director of the Workforce Planning Board, of the organization’s latest report released last Friday.

 “The most important thing to come out of the presentation today is that we’re not 100 per cent [sure] where the future is going to go, and there’s lots of different possibilities. But just looking at what’s happening around us – and what’s happening with businesses and workforce – we’ve kind of created for more probable futures, and that gives us a chance to take a step back and start to plan what we might be doing as a community, in response to what could happen in those futures.”

Using a scenario-based planning approach, the board worked with partners and stakeholders over a four-month period to determine the key factors affecting organizations and industries. From interviews, focus groups, stakeholder surveys, and more, the board was able to then take key factors and group them into 11 “critical uncertainties.”

Members of the Waterloo, Wellington, Dufferin scenario planning committee then narrowed it down to two uncertainties that are considered to be the most important, unable to control and difficult for which to solve.

The uncertainties include the availability of people with basic skills for employers and industry, and business cash flow and the ability to stay open.

Once these emerged, four scenarios were put together, which would show the place in which businesses sit. This was meant to give businesses a chance to see what is going on and take recommendations from there.

Scenarios were put into a matrix which showed how businesses will fall dependant on the availability of workers and the ability for these businesses to remain open.

These scenarios and the recommendations from the board, are meant to help government, education and training providers, local and regional service providers, and employers as they come up with solutions to survive post COVID.

Hofbauer says in her mind it should be the government that makes the first move as we start to move towards recovery, however, this is a team effort and businesses must say what their needs are moving forward.

“I think a lot of people would say that the government should step up first. And I think with some of the recommendations we have, it would be best if businesses could really articulate what it is they need to move forward.… I think this is an all-hands-on-deck situation where we all need to be talking to each other, and we all need to be communicating with each other to ensure that we’re making the right programs for businesses and for our workforce, make sure that when we come out of this we come out of this with a stronger foundation than when we went in.”

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