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Lack of affordable housing, skilled workers and expanded healthcare services identified in report

Affordable housing initiatives, attraction and retention of skilled labour and expanded healthcare and services for seniors are key recommendations expressed in the County’s 2017 Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) survey.

Neil Carbone, the County’s Director of Community Development said a lot of the findings reinforced what was learned through the first BR+E, conducted last year with the County’s manufacturing and construction sectors. Professional and health care sectors were the focus of this year’s report involving 60 confidential interviews with businesses to gather insights on needs, challenges and opportunities for growth.

On Monday, Carbone told members of the Economic Development Commission that additional challenges are being faced around succession planning and workforce attraction where skilled workers are needed.

Before the report goes to council it will also be reviewed by business community members attending a forum this week, and presented to some community groups.

Starting in May 2017, the Community Development Department conducted the interviews with businesses in accounting, engineering, design, legal, consulting, veterinary, social service, insurance, property and healthcare services.

The report states 78 per cent of PEC businesses cited difficulty hiring new employees – compared to 49 per cent provincially.

“In the professional and healthcare services sector, higher skill and education levels are typically required,” the report states. “The local labour pool generally lacks the skill sets needed for this sector. This includes essential spelling, grammar and mathematical skills to do the job.” Generally they received enough job applications, but lacked those with appropriate skills and relevant experience.

Eighty-six per cent of employers who cited they had difficulty hiring said it was due to the lack of appropriate skills or training, and 55 per cent cited a lack of relevant experience from the local labour pool.

The report states “a surprising amount of employees” are not residents of the County and commute in from surrounding areas. Commuting was cited nine times in the survey, landing it as the number one difficulty for retaining employees.

“Many commute in from Belleville, Trenton, Deseronto and Napanee where they either originally resided, or found lower cost of living when relocating… However, commuting was a major issue due to bad weather and bridge closures which affected reliability. The time and costs related to commuting also affected the employer’s ability to retain employees, with many leaving for jobs in Belleville for the same pay.

Lack of affordable housing to rent or purchase was cited as the number two reason for difficulty attracting and retaining employees.

For those businesses with owners nearing retirement, succession planning was identified as a need for the 28 per cent of business owners in the professional services sector who will be retiring in the next five years. More than half haven’t found a qualified replacement. Thirty-five per cent do not have a plan.

Seniors were a focus of the healthcare responses.

“Current resources are not anticipating the increase in demand in the next 10-15 years,” said a local physician quoted in the report, pointing to aging Baby Boomers who will drastically increase need for services.

“A pro-active approach towards preventative healthcare should be considered,” the report states. “This includes encouraging and fostering an active lifestyle and healthy diet as preventative measures.”

Promotion of other available healthcare professionals instead of relying on physicians was also cited as a way of alleviating physician demand. Others cited the lack of a local walk-in clinic which results in people going to the Emergency Department as the only option, which is not ideal for non-emergency related issues and unnecessarily burdens the department. The Emergency Department is also used for visitors during the tourism season which compounds the demand on available resources.

The County’s aging population is also seeing more chronic disease and mental health issues. Physicians spoke of patients being seen increasingly for multiple and complex issues.

“The increased time needed, combined with the increase in patient load, has a cumulative effect,” the report states. “The newer influx of retirees has a higher level of education and higher expectations on services compared to their experience in Toronto. They want specialized skills that are not necessarily available here. Some physicians embrace this change while others find it burdensome.”

Parking issues continue to affect some business owners who stated seniors no longer find it convenient to run errands during the summer as they can’t find parking and as a result, “this is a top issue for healthcare professionals in the downtown core who rely on convenient client access for their business to succeed.”

Thirteen of the 60 businesses stated lack of appropriate commercial space, with parking, in Picton and Wellington is a key concern. They note the two markets are distinct in terms of consumer shopping trends.

“Generally speaking Picton residents avoid going to Wellington for professional services, and vice-versa. Wellington residents would rather go to Trenton or Belleville to receive service rather than travel to Picton as it’s the same amount of travel time.” As a result, businesses owners not the need for two separate locations to access each market.

Businesses also spoke of the need to balance providing one-to-one customer service expected by seniors with adaptation of digital communication for younger customers who prefer texting to set up appointments and online bookings.

The report notes businesses in the professional sector have been slow to respond to the trend toward social media marketing admitting they don’t have the knowledge or resources. They also note younger customers are not thinking about retirement, or financial planning, or can’t afford it.

 

Recommendations to foster and support expanding businesses:

1. Continue Affordable Housing Initiatives that directly benefit the local workforce being able to
find long term affordable rental or home purchases.

2. Continued Attraction & Retention of Youth is vital to the long term sustainability of our
community. Leveraging our existing younger tourism market to promote resident attraction.
Supporting initiatives that build awareness with local youth about the career opportunities
found here.

3. Workforce Development: Continue to support Sector Workforce Partnership Recommendations,
which include training our local labour pool to become more qualified candidates for
employment in the professional services sector.

4. Workforce Attraction Initiatives: Help attract the skilled labour needed to fill professional
services sector job positions and promote the area as an attractive lifestyle destination while
also addressing affordable worker housing.

5. Physician Recruitment: Continue participation on the Physician Recruitment & Retention
Committee.

6. Bi-monthly Business Networking Events: Opportunities for referrals, and keep informed on
what’s happening in the business community. 37% of businesses are interested in more
networking and information sharing.

7. Workshops to Support Business: Continue and expand Winter Survival Workshops. Focus on
topics such as succession planning, financial budgeting, advanced excel, social media, customer
service, sales, health and safety, dealing with difficult people and computer literacy.

Recommendations to promote healthy seniors

8. Succession Planning Workshops to encourage employers to start planning early for succession
planning. Educating employers on the complex dynamics including tax implications and
corporate structure, legal requirements, transitioning client base, identifying and fostering
potential successors, valuations, and personal succession.

9. Pro-active Approach to Addressing root causes of Healthcare needs: Promoting healthy and
active lifestyles for seniors. Foster and support projects that enable seniors to remain active.

10. Support recommendations found in the Prince Edward County Age-Friendly Community Plan.

11. Consider the idea of a Health & Community Services Centre (for pitching to investors or
developers). This would be a collaborative space for likeminded healthcare professionals to
operate their business out of. It would include shared common area for reception, waiting area
and shared practitioner rooms. Commercial units could include physiotherapists, massage
therapists, chiropractors, dental hygienists and family physicians.

 

 

 

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