London Mayor Ed Holder has unveiled his plan to address the city’s jobs problem.
While the city enjoys a relatively low unemployment rate — Statistics Canada reported last week that the London-St. Thomas jobless rate fell to five per cent in March — London continues to struggle with one of the worst labour force participation rates in the country.
The number of Londoners ages 25 to 64 who weren’t working at the end of last year reached nearly 78,000. That’s despite the unemployment rate being less than half of the 11.2 per cent high it reached in October 2009 in the midst of the recession.
Holder highlighted the issue during his State of the City address in January when he pledged to connect 13,000 people with jobs.
To do that, Holder has created the London Jobs Now task force to link employers with potential employees.
The task force includes representatives from the London Economic Development Corporation, London Chamber of Commerce, City of London Social Services, Western University, Fanshawe College, London Region Manufacturing Council and Knighthunter.
Speaking at Diamond Aircraft Industries on Crumlin Sideroad on Friday morning, Holder said: “To this point, no one has addressed the issue of London’s non-employed. We challenge the task force to look at how do we reach out to this?”
“We need to reach out to London’s unemployed. In some ways, this is extremely simple. But we have never dealt with the hard issue of how we tackle London’s unemployed,” he added.
Holder was joined at the announcement by Deputy Mayor Jesse Helmer and councillors Shawn Lewis, Mo Salih, Steve Hillier and Michael Van Holst.
Diamond Aircraft announced last fall that it would double its production in 2019 and planned to add over 100 jobs. However, the London-based airplane manufacturer has struggled to fill those positions due to a lack of resumes and applications.
Jeffrey Smallwood, production operations manager at Diamond Aircraft, told Global News Radio 980 CFPL there are a number of factors as to why jobs haven’t been filled.
“People are not hearing our message through the traditional platforms,” Smallwood said. “We have a little bit of a transit issue in London. We operate at very extended hours and unique times; we need people to be able to get to work in those hours.”
London has the same number of people working today as it did 11 years ago, despite the city experiencing significant population growth since then.
Holder said the focus of the task force isn’t to create new jobs, it’s to fill existing job openings with those looking for work. According to StatCan, there are 9,000 job openings currently in the London economic region.
Holder calls those who don’t count towards the city’s unemployment rate the “hidden unemployment” because they aren’t actively looking for work.
The mayor cites two major reasons for the problem: public transit and the city’s recruiting methods.
The task force reports it heard from many businesses that they have difficulty attracting talent because of insufficient public transit to and from the industrial parks in east and south London. Recruiting efforts have also failed to attract job applicants.
The first step towards matching London’s hidden unemployed with jobs will occur on Tuesday, April 16 at the London and Area Works Job Fair at the Western Fair Agriplex from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
More than 70 employers will be at the job fair looking to fill more than 2,000 jobs.