Industry Tours for Educators

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Almost six years ago, an original recommendation in the Annual Labour Market Plan, the DWA planned to organize an annual tour for secondary school teachers of local industries that represent Durham’s emerging growth sectors. (sustainable energy, automotive/transportation, IT, health and wellness, agriculture and biosciences)

This partnership provides an opportunity to have the front line business owner speak to industry trends, future employment prospects. Such tours are an attempt to curb negative out-migration of youth.

An early tour of Gerdeau

An early tour of Gerdeau

Over the years, the DWA has taken secondary school teachers on tours of Duffin Creek Water Treatment Facility, General Motors Centre, PR Engineering, Gerdeau Ameristeel, Ajax Municipal Operations, Algoma Orchards and St. Mary’s Cement.  The first tour had 35 teachers attend, last year we had 80.

Recently the DWA hosted 70 teachers and community partners from Literacy Service Providers and Employment Ontario Service Providers on our annual tour.  This year, the DWA explored the Small to Medium Sized business in the Region.  The companies toured were:  Halenda’s, Five Paddles, the Abilities Centre, Ball Packaging, 3 Steps Up Coffee House.

Tracy Hanson, Whitby Chamber of Commerce provided the key note address and shared updates on local up and coming small business.

The day was well received based on the incoming evaluations, the DWA will host the event again next year.


Teachers visiting Algoma Orchards

Teachers visiting Algoma Orchards

What Does Homelessness Mean to You?

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As workforce planning boards, we are charged with examining the workforce from a number of angles.  One of the challenges we face is the return to support rate of job seekers.  This means simply that some job seekers who are supported by funding from Durham Region or from the province, often get a job and then shortly afterward, lose the job and return to the support.  The data is interesting and in some cases, startling.  But as with all data, it doesn’t mean much if you don’t seek to find the story behind it.  This is a key factor of workforce planning.  As workforce planning boards, we can gather all the data we can get our hands on, but if we don’t seek that story behind the scenes, we will never truly build a Local Labour Market Plan that meets the needs of our community and addresses systemic issues like the numbers of return to support.

Recently, the Murray McKinnon Foundation invited its community partners to participate in a ‘Homeless Maze.”  Community organizations were invited to attend and find their way through community support organizations.  The entire Durham Workforce Authority (DWA) staff attended Friday morning to participate.

one homeless maze

Paige is on the left, and Jennifer on the right, this is at the start of our day

Each of us was given a profile of a person in need of community supports.  The foundation asked the participants to assume these profiles for the morning and to use the provided information to work our way through the systems.

Here are the DWA profiles:

Jennifer – single women, escaping violence in the home, with two young children under seven, no income, seeking shelter

Paige – Single father with custody of a three-year old daughter, $150 in the bank, no other income, no identification

Heather (me!) – single, twenty-something, almost finished Employment Insurance (no job), diabetic, lost all identification, behind in rent, with a large dog

We were provided with a few rules, that we could not ask what table was providing which service, we just had to pick a line and get in one, we could only visit the table individually and we could not work together.  It as isolating indeed.

The community services were set up throughout the church.  Some lines were very long.  You could feel the frustration growing.  You knew people were beginning to understand the difficulty some members of our community face – daily.

Once I had assumed my persona; I headed to the food bank. It was obvious it was a food bank – it had bags of food on the table.  I waited in line.  I discovered that I could only get food once month and that the food bank probably would not have food for my dog.  (as a dog lover, this struck me)

I remembered that my persona had diabetes and that this required medical care, after waiting for ten minutes, because I lacked identification and a health card, that I could only get basic diabetic care,  I was referred to the John Howard Society (JHS) to get my ID replaced.

six homeless maze - front line health care support

Front line health care support in our community

Now, I had to find the JHS amongst the long lines, a bag of food in my hand and my imaginary dog.  (I pretended he was a very friendly German Shepard)  After two wrong turns – a visit to the informative housing support and a rather nice lady at the St. Vincent’s Kitchen, I found my way to the JHS.  I did not know they would pay the fees to have my ID replaced, the Society has the identification sent to their office for those in precarious homes.  I felt uplifted by this experience.  I could get proper health care with some identification!

Homeless Maze Participants visiting shelter supports

Homeless Maze Participants visiting shelter supports

The housing support recommended that I visit the Ontario Works table to make arrangements for support once my Employment Insurance ended.  I quickly discovered that this should have been my first stop – the line was hours long and the room was restless.  I gave up.

Long lines and confusion at Ontario Works

Long lines and confusion at the Ontario Works line. This felt very real.

The group convened for a debrief at the end of the event.  It was interesting to hear about other experiences.  Jennifer noted how difficult it would be to be a single parent and to navigate the system with two young children in tow.  She mentioned that she was struck by the challenge of finding food and soup kitchens through out the community. Paige commented that as a single father, finding emergency shelter was almost impossible.  She was unable to locate a service for her persona in the maze.

What struck all of us was how humble people felt, how they felt that as community organizations and individuals there was much more we could do in our community.  Three key recommendations came forward at the close of the event: to encourage the Murray McKinnon Foundation to offer this event again, to expand the invitation list to others in the community and to work together to explore ways to help our homeless, precarious in our community.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, the DWA seeks to find the story behind the data, and this experience certainly provided an insight to the challenges of the precarious in our community.  This event has changed the kinds of questions we will ask in our upcoming community consultations and will push the DWA to work with our employment counterparts to develop programs and services with this experience in mind.  The event ended with a hearty acknowledgement of the hard work our community groups do almost anonymously every day.  We truly are surrounded by heroes.

Kudos to the Murray McKinnon Foundation for a job well done!

Summer Company

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Students can explore their entrepreneurial side this summer with the Summer Company Program.

The Summer Company program application deadline has been extended to June 3, 201.   The Ministry of Economic Development Trade and Employment has also increased the number of students we can have in our program.  This is great news for youth entrepreneurs.

The Summer Company program is open to all Ontario students between 15 and 29, who are returning to school in the fall.  The program is 8 – 12 weeks long and allows students to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams with the financial assistance of the Ontario government.   Students can receive up to $1,500 at the start and up to $1,500 on the successful completion of the program.  The Summer Company program provides practical hands-on training, mentoring and the essential skills to learn to run their business.

The Summer Company program is funded by the Ontario government and in Durham; the Business Advisory Centre Durham (BACD) manages this program. This successful program started in 2001 and has supported close to 2500 students and 99% of past participants would recommend the program to their friends.

For more information on the program and it’s requirements contact:  Ryan Ounjian, Summer Company Program Coordinator (905) 668-4949 or

To learn more about Summer Company visit

For more information on BACD, contact:

Teresa Shaver

Executive Director

(905) 668-4949



Durham Ideas Den

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Idea Submissions

Durham Region College Students with a venture idea that could benefit local communities were invited to join the Durham Ideas Den.

Challenge Brief

The Durham Community Innovation Lab is searching for big, bold ideas with a potential to significantly impact our local economies and improve our communities – Ideas that translate into solutions to existing problems within communities, organizations or cities in the Durham Region and reflect one of the following themes:

  • Re-thinking Poverty
  • Re-thinking Transportation systems
  • Re-thinking Youth Engagement
  • Re-imagining the image of the Region
  • Re-thinking Climate Change

At the Community Innovation Lab, (Co-ilab), focuses is on mitigating ‘the underemployment crisis’ facing post-secondary youth, by crafting innovative experiential opportunities to engage youth in cross sectoral initiatives that addresses system failures associated with complex social and environmental challenges within cities, organizations and neighbourhoods. Co-ilab curates a series of community, campus and corporate ideas jams with the citizen sector, students, city and business leaders, to identify and define the big sticky challenges facing communities and to further engage youth in generating creative solutions to transform these ‘traditional liabilities into future assets’.

Holistic Planning

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Holistic Planning November 28th  – Everyone Plans Something…

All organizations carry out planning activities – whether for project management, board development, agency strategy direction or just managing ongoing service.   Often, amazing results and data come out of one agency’s planning activities that would be greatly beneficial to many other organizations. 

Given the complexity of the issues and the interconnected quality of the challenges we face today, true leadership is multi-faceted. It has vision. It is capable of galvanizing many diverse individuals to rally for that vision. Leadership often engages a group of individuals in an inclusive or “roving” model where everyone has shared ownership of a problem or challenge. 

It is in this spirit that the Durham Region Local Training Board and Literacy Network of Durham Region will be hosting two free half-day holistic planning sessions November 28th at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 72 Queen Street Oshawa.  These sessions are open to any organization that wishes to share organizational, business, service or project plans with other agencies in the community in order to contribute to more dynamic community planning.  All registrants will be asked to come prepared with sample planning material as well as to respond to guided dialogue questions during a round table session. 

Please see the Eventbrite links below to register for this free event. 

Any questions can be directed to Jennine Agnew-Kata, Literacy Network of Durham Region at

Some Questions to Prepare:

  1. What planning activities does your organization carry out regularly or annually?
  2. What information including data would be helpful to your organization’s planning activities?
  3. What sectors, groups or agencies would you like to connect with for planning purposes?


Morning Session


Afternoon Session



Labour Market Plans Consultations

Durham Region Leaders will be invited to participate in short, informal focus group consultations on the state of the current labour market and its impact on your current workforce and your industry. 

The Durham Workforce Development Authority publishes an annual labour market plan and is available on line.  This report was based on extensive labour market research, analysis and board community consultation. 

This year our consultations will focus on labour supply and demand, talent attraction and retention issues.   For this consultation, we intend to focus on small to medium size business because as you know they are a significant economic driver in the region, the province and the country. 

Business – December10th

Whitby Chamber of Commerce Board Room

Labour – December 13th


Education – January 16th


Literacy Network of Durham – January 4th

LiNDR Office

DREN – January 23rd

Industry, Associations & networks – January 17th

Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce

Key Informant Interviews – December and January