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Skills study identifies growth areas for southwest Alberta economy

A new study will help point the way forward for southwestern Alberta’s economic growth.

Interior Design Technology alumni Lina Wiebe poses inside a home decor showroom for the new Be Ready brand campaign.

The final results of the Southwest Alberta Regional Skills Study have been released and they show opportunities to enhance skills development throughout the region to support economic growth, particularly during the region’s COVID-19 economic recovery.

The report highlights opportunities for local municipalities, businesses, economic development organizations and post-secondary education institutes to work together on skills and labour market development.

The study, which was organized by eight community partners and received funding from the partner organizations along with both the provincial and federal governments, took feedback from employers and job seekers across the region to better understand the region’s labour market strengths and challenges and the skills needed to ensure a strong and vibrant economy well into the future.

School of Environmental Sciences field trip in the coulees near the Helen Schuler nature centre.

“We are part of a unique economic ecosystem, and this study confirms we play a key role in training the employees that support our local job market,” said Dr. Paula Burns, Lethbridge College president and CEO. “This is achieved through both our traditional programming and through our increased focus on working with local industry to develop up-skilling, re-skilling and micro-credential programs that meet the immediate needs of industry. We will continue to increase our work-integrated learning opportunities that support our local economy.”

A strong labour force was identified as the top consideration for businesses looking to invest in the region.

The study shows southwestern Alberta is set to need more than 8,000 new workers over the next five years, with the largest increases coming in health care, arts, entertainment, recreation and educational services, while service workers, general laborers and skilled trades workers are the most in-demand occupations.

Welding students practise skills in the new Trades, Technologies and Innovation facility.

“Labour supply has topped the list for site selectors for the past three years,” said Jim Willett, chair of SouthGrow Regional Economic Development. “SouthGrow is proud to work with our partners to proactively address changes to our labour market so that southern Alberta can continue to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world.”

There are opportunities for growth, as a growing mismatch was identified between the skills of people in the region and available jobs.

Many job-seekers are considering employment outside their usual line of work, and employers report having trouble finding the right people for the jobs they are providing.

In response to these findings, the partner organizations have formed four task teams that will work collaboratively to:

• Develop labour market information to support decision making.
• Pursue programs that increase talent retention and attract top talent.
• Increase existing efforts to align training and skills with demand.
• Create expanded work integrated learning opportunities.

“As industry considers new and innovative ways to operate, during, and after this pandemic, having a skilled and knowledgeable work force will put southwestern Alberta in a place to  thrive worldwide,” said Trevor Lewington, CEO of Economic Development Lethbridge.

“One of the most asked questions from business and industry to our organization surrounds labour force, skills and education. We know how important it is for investment in the region and also helping existing businesses find people they need to be successful.”

The study is a collaboration between the SouthGrow Regional Initiative, Lethbridge College, Economic Development Lethbridge, Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance, Community Futures Alberta Southwest, Lethbridge Family Services, the Town of Taber and Vulcan County.

The study is jointly funded by the Government of Canada, Alberta’s Ministry of Labour and Immigration and the partner organizations.

The province is working in partnership with the Government of Canada to provide employment support programs and services.

The full study is available on the Lethbridge College Web page.

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