KENORA: The Ontario government is investing $1.25 million through Destination Northern Ontario to provide 300 people with free training to work in Northern Ontario’s tourism industry.
The project will benefit people who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 and benefit businesses and employers by ensuring they have the resources they need to attract and retain workers.
Details were provided by Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, and his Parliamentary Assistant MPP Jane McKenna, joined by Lisa McLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Industries.
“With more people getting vaccinated every day, we can look forward to a summer of enjoying the beauty our province has to offer – and this means good local jobs in tourism and hospitality,” said Minister McNaughton.
“This project is a great example of local organizations stepping up and working together to create a solution for people in the community who need it most. This industry was deeply affected by the pandemic but I’m happy to say hope is on the horizon.”
Participants in this program will get training for positions like customer service, front desk reception, guest services and housekeeping, as well as training in COVID-19-safe operating protocols, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, and service excellence.
“Our government recognizes the significant impact our $36-billion dollar tourism industry has on our economic fabric, and the effects COVID-19 have had on our operators,” said Minister MacLeod.
“This much-needed support will assist those who have lost their jobs and our sector, which was hit first, the hardest and will take the longest to recover.”
At least 150 employers, mostly rural tourism operators, will be involved in hiring workers to meet the expected demand. Employers will be reimbursed 30 per cent of wages up to $3,000 per worker hired. The program will start in June with online, self-directed training to take place over the next few months. Participants will be placed in positions for the summer months until September throughout Northern Ontario.
• In 2020, employment in Northern Ontario declined by 13,900 jobs (-3.9 per cent) and the unemployment rate was 7.8 per cent.
• Prior to the pandemic, Ontario’s tourism industry generated more than $36 billion in economic activity and supported more than 390,000 jobs across the province. Tourism-related industries experienced a total combined loss of 141,000 jobs between February 2020 and April 2021.
• People interested in participating in this Destination Northern Ontario program or employers interested hiring participants can find out more and apply at their local Employment Ontario office, or directly by contacting Destination Northern Ontario at (705) 523-2228.
• The funding comes as part of the government’s $115-million Skills Development Fund that supports innovative projects to get workers and apprentices back to work quickly.
• Overall, Ontario is investing more than $625 million in initiatives to support tourism, hospitality, culture, sport and recreation sectors. David MacLachlan, Executive Director, Destination Northern Ontario, said: “The goal of Tourism SkillsNet North is to support the skills and talent needs of the tourism sector. This initiative will not only allow 300 participants to develop skills and a passion for the industry but also address the needs of the local labour market and more than 150 employers that have been impacted by the pandemic. Once Ontario opens for business, the Northern Ontario tourism industry will be ready.”