Small businesses get injection of support to tackle skills gaps and labour shortages

Small Business Canada

TORONTO, Nov. 8, 2021 /CNW/ – Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in four regions of Canada will get a much needed boost backed by 50 chambers of commerce and boards of trade. Many have faced acute labour market disruption due to the pandemic and need critical access to resources and tools to bolster skill development and talent retention to support future growth. 

The Future Skills Centre (FSC) is investing $3.7 million in a partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to launch an online training and learning management platform that will (support at least 200 small businesses in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. 

The platform will include curated content that builds on work spearheaded by the Diversity Institute and utilizes Magnet’s technical infrastructure to connect users to the content. SMEs will be able to access a wide variety of free resources including ones on leadership, diversity and inclusion, mental health and wellness, digital skills and regulatory compliance. These will be in the form of short courses, e-learning modules and other workforce tools.

SMEs form the backbone of the Canadian economy, employing almost 90 per cent of all Canadians who work in the private sector. Although they drive economic growth, these businesses often cannot stay competitive as they lack the resources to upskill and train their employees – hindering growth, recruitment and retention of new and diverse workers.

This investment is part of FSC’s strategy to test approaches that anticipate and address labour market disruption and invest in research and training partnerships that prepare people for the future of work. FSC recently announced partnerships in key sectors


“Small businesses are at the heart of communities across the country but they have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. This partnership will help forge a path to economic recovery for them by sharing skills and training content that is cost-effective and customized to meet the unique needs of individual companies. We’re proud to work with the Future Skills Centre and our key partners to deliver vital resources for small businesses through our local chambers of commerce and boards of trade.”
– Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

“As the country’s economic recovery is underway, Canadians need access to skills development opportunities that will help them advance their careers and be better positioned in a digital economy. This project from the Future Skills Centre will help accomplish that while also supporting small businesses and making them, and their employees, more agile to respond to the needs of the labour market and economy.”
– Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

“We know that many businesses work on tight margins with not much extra time or money to figure out a skills strategy for their workforce. Through this innovative collaboration, we’re working side by side to help small businesses address the challenges they face in shifting to new business models and having a place to turn to for support in learning new skills. Building business solutions by creating digital tools and resources is crucial for the workforce of the future.”
– Pedro Barata, Executive Director, Future Skills Centre

“Even pre-COVID-19, 40 percent of SMEs identified skills shortages as a major competitive challenge. Most SMEs can’t afford the dedicated human resources capacity needed to balance competing demands of supporting recruitment, advancing upskilling and improving diversity and inclusion. This new platform will provide an opportunity to build critical mass to curate training opportunities, build inclusive human resources and share best practices to get SMEs the talent they need.”
– Wendy Cukier, director of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute and academic research lead of the Future Skills Centre


  • A centralized digital library will host curated and shareable content such as resources and tools in a number critical topics and unlock organizational human resources capacity for SMEs.
  • Training content will be identified, sourced and validated to meet the needs of SMEs across Canada, including at least 30% of SMEs led by equity-seeking groups. Training on diversity and inclusion aims to reduce hiring barriers for these groups.
  • Businesses will develop, submit and digitize their own learning content to share with other SMEs. Content can also be adapted to ensure it meets users’ needs.

About OCC
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, representing 157-member chambers of commerce and boards of trade and a diverse network of 60,000 members, is the indispensable partner of business. For more than a century, the OCC has undertaken important research on Ontario’s most pressing policy issues, advocating for solutions that will foster the growth of Ontario businesses and lead to the creation of jobs in the province. Its mission is to convene, align and advance the interests of its members through principled policy work, value-added business services, and broad engagement to build prosperity for all Ontarians. 

About FSC
The Future Skills Centre (FSC) is a forward-thinking centre for research and collaboration dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success. We believe Canadians should feel confident about the skills they have to succeed in a changing workforce. As a pan-Canadian community, we are collaborating to rigorously identify, test, measure, and share innovative approaches to assessing and developing the skills Canadians need to thrive in the days and years ahead. The Future Skills Centre was founded by a consortium whose members are Ryerson University, Blueprint, and The Conference Board of Canada, and is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program.

About Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute
The Diversity Institute conducts and coordinates multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder research to create practical strategies to advance skills and employment opportunities for women, racialized people, newcomers, Indigenous people, persons living with disabilities and others. The Diversity Institute is home to unique programs such as the Advanced Digital and Professional Training Program (ADaPT) as well as the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub aimed at building an inclusive innovation ecosystem.

About Magnet
Magnet is a digital social innovation platform founded at Ryerson University. Magnet’s mission is to accelerate inclusive economic growth for all in Canada by advancing careers, businesses and communities. Magnet works with partners in education, industry, government, technology, and community services to build tools that users can access through our platforms to support a common goal: inclusive growth.

SOURCE The Future Skills Centre

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