SSM Chamber of Commerce: Small business, Too big to ignore

Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce

Small Business Week will run October 18-24. This year more than ever, we all have to focus on the needs and survival our small businesses: SSM Chamber of Commerce

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON – The pandemic has intensified many weaknesses for small business including their access to both digital technologies and skills. In advance of Small Business Week 2020, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network, including the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, will initiate a vital conversation about these gaps with the launch of the report, Small and Medium Size Employers: Skills Gaps and Future Skills, a Skills Next project and a collaboration between the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Ted Rogers School of Management Diversity Institute, Public Policy Forum, and the Future Skills Centre.

The Chamber network is deeply concerned about the impacts that the COVID-19 crisis is having on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), charities, and not-for-profit organizations in Ontario. These businesses and agencies are the backbone of the Canadian economy, accounting for more than 90 percent of jobs in the private sector, yet they face critical labour shortages, skill mismatches, and ongoing challenges related to broadband internet access that threaten their competitiveness.

“With 75 percent of Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) members reporting that the ability to recruit and retain talent is a critical factor to their competitiveness, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce has long called on the government to address the province’s skills mismatch. Modernizing Ontario’s apprenticeship system, reforming skills and employment training programs, and improving the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program are all critical steps to create the workforce of the future that we have been advocating for,” says Rory Ring, CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce.

Two weeks ago, a sun-setting policy resolution, co-sponsored by the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, was returned for discussion and consideration during the OCC’s annual policy process. That resolution discussed options for improving Indigenous education in the province, recognizing that Canada’s Indigenous people, with the fastest-growing population in the country, must be a key component of the strategy for developing the skilled workforce needed for Ontario’s future. The policy was supported overwhelmingly by Ontario’s Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade.

“We are pleased to see the recommendations in that particular resolution will remain part of the Ontario Chamber network’s advocacy framework,” says Ring. “While educational attainment for Indigenous people has been on the rise, more must be done to ensure that all Ontarians have access to the education and training needed to succeed in a modern economy.”

In addition to the launch of the new report, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce will also focus in on the challenges related to access to broadband that threaten Ontario’s business competitiveness.

“Broadband is a basic infrastructure requirement in today’s economy, but the ongoing pandemic has made it even more essential to public health and economic resilience,” adds Ashley Challinor, Vice President, Policy, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “For businesses and workers, particularly those practicing physical distancing or working remotely, connectivity is necessary to ensure they can remain productive by using digital tools such as video conferencing. Without adequate access, those in rural and remote regions will be vulnerable to additional layoffs and business closures.”

Canadian Small Business Week takes place during the third week of October every year. This year, the celebration will occur October 18-24, 2020. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce network will use this year’s Small Business Week and related events and communications to re-launch its popular ‘Small Business: Too Big To Ignore’ campaign and actively engage small businesses in discussions about the top obstacles impeding their growth and the ways in which these challenges can be overcome.

“The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce is urging everyone in Sault Ste. Marie to use Small Business Week this year as a starting point to re-commit to supporting our local small businesses,” says Ring. “Now, more than ever, as small businesses continue to struggle and recover from COVID-19’s impact, we all need to step up for them, the way they’ve stepped up for us during the pandemic. These are the businesses that have supported our local charities, our fundraisers and our sports teams, and who are now taking every precaution to keep you safe when visiting their establishments.”

You can read the Skills Next project report: Skills Next is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program