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Training is the Key to Prosperity

by Louise Gaudrault

One of the most significant issues facing businesses today is access to skilled labour. Skilled labour — not just skilled trades — is essential for the growth and development of Canadian communities. In rural and remote areas of Ontario, and indeed in other parts of the country, finding skilled personnel, or at least training and development opportunities, can be a struggle.

Essential Skills

The Government of Canada through extensive research has identified nine essential skills.1 These are needed in most occupations, as well as in daily life, in varying degrees of complexity. They are:

  1. Reading text
  2. Document use
  3. Numeracy
  4. Writing
  5. Oral communications
  6. Working with others
  7. Continuous learning
  8. Thinking skills
  9. Computer use

Identifying the skills needed is only the first step. To ensure competency and improvement of this knowledge base, training and continued education are key.

Enhancing Skills

Many employers encourage and pay for their workers to add to their skills. One employee, Ken Stewart, was able to complete the Ontario Management and Development program with the support of his employer, Hemlo, in Marathon, Ontario (population 3,860). He enrolled in the program that was offered jointly by Canadore and Confederation Colleges and delivered via the Contact North| network. Using distance education technology, Ken was able to enhance his skills.

“I was a little bit concerned, having been out of school for 30 years,” stated Ken, whose only previous post-secondary experience was two years of language studies at Laurentian University.

On top of work and home life, he had a few other responsibilities to juggle as well. He coaches at a junior curling rink, is the treasurer for a local girls’ hockey team and sits on the board of an area credit union. He says, however, that he always found time to take his classes.

“I’m 50 and you kind of know what you want. You’ve made that commitment, you see it through,” noted Ken. He says Contact North| was very accommodating, allowing him to tune into classes while he was away on business trips.

Training Options from Contact North

Working with Ontario’s colleges, universities, high schools and literacy organizations, Contact North| is able to provide access to over 10,000 courses in a wide variety of fields. For employers or individuals that need a lot of flexibility in their training options, the online 24/7 course delivery method is probably best. For those who prefer live classes with set times and dates, the technologies offered by Contact North| include a blend of e-learning, audio and video.

Last year, over 8000 individuals took ‘at a distance’ courses through Contact North|, many of which were people looking for retraining in the wake of economic upheaval.

Attracting skilled personnel to rural and remote communities is not always possible, but training and upgrading local staff members may fill the knowledge gap and maintain the local economy. With access centres in 112 small communities in Ontario, Contact North| is ensuring that education and training opportunities are available to all who need them.


1  “Essential Skills: Definitions”, Human Resources Skills Development Canada,

Louise Gaudrault is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Contact North| Her varied career path within the fields of education, museums and Francophone rights has provided her with twenty years experience in public relations and project management. Louise is a graduate of the University of Montreal and Wilfrid Laurier University. You can reach her at

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