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The City of Windsor and Workforce WindsorEssex are being awarded a provincial contract to offer employment services from Windsor to Sarnia.

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Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development, visited Windsor Thursday to announce the news as part of provincial efforts to expand new employment services to five more regions.

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“Today in Ontario, there are 800,000 people on social assistance, yet we have thousands of jobs going unfilled,” McNaughton told the Star. “This new system is an outcomes-based system that’s really going to push training providers and agencies to ensure we’re helping people get the training they need for in-demand jobs and lift people off of social assistance.”

Monte McNaughton, right, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development speaks during a press conference at Windsor City Hall on Thursday, March 9, 2023 as Mayor Drew Dilkens looks on.
Monte McNaughton, right, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development speaks during a press conference at Windsor City Hall on Thursday, March 9, 2023 as Mayor Drew Dilkens looks on. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Justin Falconer, CEO of Workforce WindsorEssex, told the Star the new model of service delivery from Windsor to Sarnia will be locally defined and locally driven, with his organization and the city partnering at the helm.

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“I think it’s a really fresh look at the way employment supports can be driven locally to solve local challenges with local solutions,” Falconer said.

“In the old model, employment supports like Ontario Works and persons with ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program), and even the general population were all sort of fragmented under different ministries and different responsibilities.

“In this new model, it’s going to be consolidated under a new service manager, which is our consortium.”

Both entities will perform outreach to better understand the needs of Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton, Falconer said.

“The City of Windsor has great experience delivering Ontario Works and ODSP, and also being an Employment Ontario service provider. Workforce WindsorEssex has great experience coming in around workforce development and knowledge of the local labour markets, and data and research and barriers that clients typically encounter.

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“You bring those two experiences together and you have a really unique, rich partnership that is rooted in local knowledge and expertise.”

The other system managers for the new regions are the City of London in London; Servo with Deloitte Inc. and Thrive Career Wellness Inc. in Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie; the Regional Municipality of Durham, Durham Workforce Authority, and Durham College in Durham; and International APM Group/WCG in Ottawa.

New employment services are already in place in Peel, Hamilton-Niagara, Muskoka-Kawartha, Halton, York, Stratford-Bruce Peninsula, and Kingston-Pembroke. By the end of this year, they will be expanded to Toronto and Northern Ontario.

McNaughton said the new employment system gives training providers more “flexibility” to help those on social assistance find “meaningful jobs” by buying their uniforms and transit passes and paying for child care, among other things. The new system also has a focus on helping those with criminal backgrounds find jobs, giving them a “second chance,” he said. 

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More than 60,000 people in regions that have already launched the new system are on the path to a job, and more than 23,000 of them are recipients of social assistance, the province said. More than two in five of the 60,000 are people with disabilities and nearly one in five are disadvantaged young people.

As of the third quarter of 2022, there were roughly 364,000 jobs left unfilled in Ontario. In the Windsor-Sarnia area, there were about 13,000 vacant jobs.

“We are delivering on our commitment to getting people the support they need faster to gain financial independence,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, minister of children, community and social services.

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“We are empowering those on social assistance who can and want to work by connecting them with employment supports in their community. This will help them develop the in-demand skills they need to successfully participate in the labour market and find meaningful employment.”

Workforce WindsorEssex’s Falconer said there will be a transition period before the consortium takes over local services. In the coming months, the consortium will do some hiring, establish a location, and further plan before taking over services at the start of 2024.

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