Mr. Ken Kobly, President & CEO of Alberta Chambers of Commerce was the guest speaker at the September Luncheon.
The first Chamber Luncheon of the year got off to a rousing start by bringing in Mr. Ken Kobly, President and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce. Mr. Kobly was also formerly the Mayor of Beaumont for 12 years, so he is very familiar with this area and it's special qualities.
He wasted no time in jumping into the meat and potatoes of his presentation by stating that he is very positive about the financial recovery in this area. He said, "We were the last ones to enter the economic downturn, and the first one out. The only thing more prolific in Nisku than the dandelions are the help wanted signs!"
One of his greatest concerns for the area though is the anticipated, severe labour shortage. "It is the small and medium sized businesses that can least afford the shortage." said Ken. "These owners are already working 16-18 hour days, and I wish I had good news for them but honestly, the upcoming shortage is going to make the last one look like a cake walk."
He encouraged local business people to bring their ideas forward to their Chambers of Commerce, on how the processes can be streamlined to bring more workers into the workforce.
Ken stated that the most under-represented potential workforce base that we have is our aboriginal community. He feels that with better educational and workforce training opportunities there could be a wealth of workers right under our noses.
Another potential workforce stream is our pensioners. "We need to improve the system so they're not punished for earning a wage over top of their pension dollars, as they are of huge value in the workforce with their years of experience. We need to find a way to entice them to stay." he stated.
In his opinion, another sector we need to focus on is to actively work toward bringing in US workers. Ken commented that, "We just need to better educate them about Canada so they don't think we live in igloos! We also need to acknowledge the trade certifications between the countries so their training is recognized and valid within Canada."
The fourth and final potential worker base he spoke of were the temporary foreign workers. Ken shared that a joke is making the rounds right now of how if you need a doctor in Calgary, just get into a taxi cab. "Our thought process is that a temporary foreign worker who has lived here, received training, paid taxes, and been a good law abiding citizen for four years, let them apply for landed immigrant status. Otherwise we are just training people to work in other countries that will welcome them, such as Australia. We are very fortunate that the last two Labour and Immigration Ministers have understood this issue, and have actively worked toward positive changes in our policies."
Ken also touched on the fact that he feels there is a "lack of connect" between the rest of Canada and Alberta. He drew quite a laugh from the crowd with his last sentence when he stated, "We need to be proud of what we do here. In my conservative estimation, the air quality is 10 times better in Fort McMurray than in Toronto. The open pit mines and storage ponds up there take up about the same footprint as the City of Toronto. However, all the land up north will eventually be reclaimed and replanted, but that will never happen to Toronto!"
Ken then pointed out that, "Most of the people speaking of the 'terrible things' happening in Alberta have never been here."
In closing, Ken stated that he hoped his comments on the labour shortage would be taken in a positive manner, but, "The end result is that we are Albertans and we will overcome anything!"
Mr. Kobly took several questions from the audience, and then retired to his seat to a loud round of applause.
A final announcement before the luncheon was complete, was made by Kenn Bur, Director of Information Support Services for the City of Leduc, and that was to officially announce the launch of the new online events calendar that links thirteen different calendars to cover all of the happenings in Leduc and area. Calendar partners include the City of Leduc, the Chamber of Commerce, the EDA, the LRC, Leduc Public Library and the Maclab Centre for the Performing Arts, amongst others. The calendar can be found at www.1calendar.ca.