City invests in building a more aware local labour pool

A Niagara, ON company, is helping Portage la Prairie build a more aware labour force by bridging the gap between schools and businesses.

Mickey Dumont

The Portage Citizen — Portage Collegiate Institute’s 2021 graduating class will be better equipped to understand local career pathways and graduate job ready to fill industry needs.

Portage la Prairie has invested seed dollars to promote EdgeFactor — a system to bridge the communication gap between education and business.

“EdgeFactor brings to the table a great opportunity for students to know more about opportunities available in our community,” Blair Hordeski, Portage Collegiate Institute Career Development Coordinator said following the formal EdgeFactor presentation May 22 at the Glesby Centre.

“We know 30 per cent of our students go off to postsecondary immediately out of high school but for that other 70 per cent we want to make sure at the very least they know what they can do in their own community, what opportunities are available here.”

Today EdgeFactor is integrated into PCI’s Grade 9 Career Development class. “We’re focussing on the soft skills section involving learning more about communications, responsibilities, those kinds of things,” Hordeski said. “The career development class helps PCI students learn what it means to work at Simplot, Richardson, what does an ag technician do? EdgeFactor is helping bridge the relationship gap between student and local employer.

“I believe it is a great addition to our career development program. Absolutely.”

EdgeFactor gives students an opportunity to know more and learn about these actual opportunities available here.

Julie Nickerson, EdgeFactor director of Community impact, was in Portage la Prairie May 22 to publicly roll out the program now in its infancy here. At an unannounced visit to PCI, Nickerson and by chance, was taken into one class that was involved in the program. “That’s exciting to see,” she said.

“It’s a community in and of itself that has a lot of interested industry and educators that are already very involved and willing to work together. That’s the makings of a great opportunity for partnership, growth and for kids to be exposed to potential career pathways,” she said

Portage Regional Economic Development Executive Director Vern May first saw the EdgeFactor presentation at the National Economic Development Conference at Niagara Falls in late 2017.

“I could see the value of it right away. That conference was in September, our first meeting was in October and we introduced it in the schools in January,” May said.

As well as being part of the Career Development curriculum at PCI, EdgeFactor is also being used at the Portage Learning and Literacy Centre for adult learners who are actively looking for employment.

May said the city is seeding the program for three years to help establish it in the schools and within Portage and area businesses.

“Because it is education you are not going to see the results in one year. We look at it as starting in Grade 9, seeing the students starting to make decisions in Grade 11 steering themselves in the direction of a career. We will get an indication over three years as to what kind of influence the program is having. If we haven’t influenced change over three years then we need to go in a different direction, but I’m pretty confident in the response that we’ve already seen.

Niagara-based EdgeFactor has been developing its system to engage student and businesses for nine years. “We are here to inspire students and change perceptions. We really want to work within communities and give them the tools they need to help on closing the gap and really bridge education and industry and have them communicating and provide the tools so they can,” Nickerson said.

Phil Neudorf, general manager of Portage Transport says “we never stop learning,” and heard the EdgeFactor details for the first time May 22. “To keep local people in the community and support local industry, is always the best way to go. I fully support this concept from that perspective. The roots of this idea — to get people in our community to stay here, get educated here, build roots and build our community — I think that’s great,” Neudorf said.

The May 22 rollout was also the first opportunity for Red River College Regional Campus Manager Guy Moffat to learn about EdgeFactor.

“They are still trying to figure out how postsecondary plugs into their platform. The concept is really interesting and I think a very good one. This company is trying to bring industry in to tell their story about what it is they need and the types of jobs that are available. It would be a great tool for me to see what industry is looking for as far as training necessary for people coming into the different industries within Portage.”

EdgeFactor is concentrating on agriculture and building trades in 2018, both important career avenues for Portage and area.

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