Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Oct. 19, 2023 edition of The Sault Star.
A Sault Ste. Marie-based non-profit is expanding its services to help fill hiring gaps that have been plaguing small local businesses over the last couple years.
Representatives from Superior Adult Learning announced on Monday that it is now in the process of directly consulting with these businesses to help simplify key job processes and ensure that prospective employees learn their new positions quickly.
"We will also be offering free soft skills assessment for employees," executive director Martin Wyant said in Monday's release.
"The results of the assessments can be used to develop a personalized learning plan, which can be supported with individual tutoring for each participant.”
Wyant told The Sault Star that these broader services perfectly complement Superior Adult Learning's mission statement since its inception in 1987.
Originally known as Project Read, this non-profit organization sought to help adults in the community improve their literacy and build essential skills needed to secure steady employment.
After rebranding as Superior Adult Learning in 2021, this group started to expand its outreach, which includes this new push to help small local businesses in the retail, tourism, hospitality and food services sector recruit and retain employees.
"Increasingly, what we've been seeing is that employers are struggling to find the people that they need for the jobs that are open," Wyant said.
"And we see an opportunity to develop a new relationship with those employers, to extend on services that we've offered before."
While Wyant can't identify one singular cause of these local hiring struggles, he attributes some of it to the disruptive influence brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered a massive labour shortage across the province.
Data from Statistics Canada show this Ontario labour shortage reached a height of 387,235 job vacancies during the third quarter of 2022. This represents nearly double the average number of vacancies (191,030) reported during the last three months of 2019.
To help close this hiring gap at a local level, Superior Adult Learning developed a new pilot project earlier this year to introduce its clients to the nine essential Skills for Success as identified by the federal government.
These nine essential skills are communication, creativity and innovation, problem solving, reading, digital, collaboration, adaptability, writing and numeracy.
Using funds left over from its Skills for Success pilot project, SAL was able to expand its services to allow for more direct consultation with local small businesses that employ up to 19 people.
"That's going to be the sweet spot for us," Wyant said. "Because those smaller employers, typically, are going to be the ones that don't have HR departments and that kind of support that you would often see in a bigger organization."
Throughout the rest of the year, SAL will continue to open up new channels of communication by reaching out to groups such as Northland Adult Education, Sault College Employment Solutions and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
Wyant revealed that this is part of the non-profit's overall drive to remove as many barriers as possible for those looking to access their services, with the end goal of securing greater economic prosperity for employees and employers alike.
"It is exciting to take what we have and bringing it more into community settings and forging new relationships with different partners," he said.
"I think that's increasingly where a group like us needs to be. We don't want to hang up a shingle and wait for people to come."
Anyone interested in learning more information about Superior Adult Learning's expanded services can contact Wyant directly by phone (705-946-3953) or email (email@example.com).
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government
Kyle Darbyson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sault Star