There is no denying that COVID-19 has taken its toll on everyone across the globe.
By Frank O’Hearn and Maureen Keeler* - Eastern Workforce Innovation Board - September, 2020
During the months of June, July and August, one-on-one consultations were conducted with thirty-five (35) community partners including Employment Service Providers, Economic Development Organizations, Labour Associations, Chambers of Commerce and other agencies. The purpose was to discuss changes in labour market challenges, gaps and opportunities. A discussion paper highlighting significant trends and challenges from the previous year was shared in advance of these discussions.
Fifty-one (51) employers were also contacted to obtain their current labour market issues and challenges. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, discussions focused on the impact it has had on the operations of the various agencies and employers and how this has affected the clients they serve. It is noted that the participants confirmed many of the issues and challenges noted in previous years still exist, however, they have taken a temporary back seat to the immediate needs created by the pandemic.
Many people have lost their jobs and unemployment has skyrocketed. Businesses are closing or operating at below capacity. The economy is in turmoil. In Canada, government organizations at all levels have been quick to respond and implement many incentive measures to assist affected businesses and workers in the shortterm. But there is a lot of uncertainly and anxiety about what is going to happen in the future.
The results of these outreach consultations are a snapshot of what labour market challenges our businesses, workers and community partners are experiencing in this area.
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1.2 MAJOR TRENDS – INFLUENCED BY COVID-19
Below are 5 major trends that have become apparent as of a result of this pandemic.
CHANGING BUSINESS MODELS
Employers will need to adapt to changing business models by:
· Increasing their online presence for offering training/education, sales and services;
· Allowing more opportunities for employees to work from home;
· Increasing safety protocols for workers and clients;
· Purchasing and learning digital platforms to accommodate the new way of doing business.
INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK REMOTELY
Many employees were given opportunities to work remotely, usually out of their home, during this pandemic and it is expected that many will continue to do so post-Covid. However, it expected that there may be a blended service offered in some instances i.e.: working part-time in an office and part-time at home.
INCREASING ONLINE ACCESS FOR SERVICES, PRODUCTS, EDUCATION, AND TRAINING
Clients, customers and students needed to adapt quickly to access training, education and services online. As well there was an increase of online purchasing. This is also expected to continue post-Covid.
GROWING IMBALANCE OF THE HAVES VS THE HAVE NOTS
It soon became apparent, during this pandemic, of the inequities of the haves and the have nots. Not everyone had the opportunity to earn a living from home by working remotely or the financial means to stay at home with their children. And many did not have the resources to pay for electronic devices needed and the internet services required to maintain an online presence. As a result, many students were not able to benefit from online education in the same way as their peers. And, similarly, some clients and customers were not able to effectively access online services.
INADEQUATE INTERNET SERVICES
Access to essential fast-speed internet was not available in many rural areas and many people were not able to participate in online services, training and education.
About the Authors
* Frank O'Hearn is the Executive Director of Eastern Workforce Innovation Board located in Gananoque, Ontario.
*Maureen Keeler is the Project Manager of Eastern Workforce Innovation Board located in Gananoque, Ontario.