“Urban grads,” “cars and kids,” and “experienced and engaged,”— the three labels attached to groups the city of Kingston is aiming to attract through their new “Possible made here” website.
“It’s really a sophisticated tool that we can use to attract talent that we need in larger urban centres, and basically in a few moments, gives the case for why Kingston is such a great place to live and showcases the career opportunities that are here,” said Mayor Bryan Paterson.
The website —launched in early June at a cost of just under $315,000 — was funded entirely by the previous Liberal government.
It is a result of the city’s Workforce Development and In-migration Strategy, which launched in 2015 to address the city’s slow population growth rate and preempt a possible labour shortage.
“This was really a reflection of what we were hearing from our businesses and workforce,” said Craig Desjardins, director of the city’s office of strategy, innovation and partnerships. “They’ve been telling us that they’re already finding it a challenge to find the talent they need to sustain, be sustainable and to grow.”
Between 2011 and 2016, the greater Kingston area only grew by one per cent, but the population within the city limits itself grew even less, by 0.4 per cent.
In March 2019, the city published Population Housing and Employment Projections, which noted that Kingston’s permanent population base is older and is aging faster than the province as a whole.
It also predicted that between now and 2046, Kingston’s population growth rate will continue to crawl at a rate of 0.5 per cent, of or 620 people a year, which is half the predicted provincial average in a similar time frame.
“The older demographic profile of the city has impeded and is anticipated to continue to constrain the city’s population growth potential over the next several decades.
Kingston has also been hit hard by a national housing shortage and is suffering from consistently low vacancy rates, which, according to the city’s housing and employment analysis done this year, has been affected by a growing student population and an aging population.
The city’s strategy to fight population decline by bringing more skilled workers to the city, exemplified through the website, is to promote Kingston’s employment opportunities, coupled with the city’s smaller, more rural-adjacent qualities.
Finding your dream job in Kingston
According to the website, 50 per cent of Kingston’s workforce lies in the public sector. The city broke that down into four major categories: public administration, health care, education, tourism and industry and agriculture.
In 2017, in a report presented to council, the city predicted the majority of growth would be seen in the education and health-care industries. Education, because Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College expressed interest in attracting more international students to their institutions, and health care, because of the city’s aging population.
The report to council said, “successful implementation will require a culture change in the way that attraction, recruitment and retention is done within the community and across eastern Ontario.”
It’s clear the website is using techniques to catch the eye of a younger, more tech-savvy worker.
A chatbot greets each website user on the homepage. It also offers a detailed interactive city map, which highlights what Kingston neighbourhoods are best suited for things like entertainment and restaurants and childcare.
The website also offers a tool, where job seekers can upload their resume, and an algorithm will go out and “scrape” the internet for jobs that match up to key terms in the resume.
“We’re using A.I. to try and match as best as possible jobs to you based on your skills, your job history, the keywords in your resume,” Desjardins said.
All in all, the city is hoping to better retain graduates from local post-secondary institutions, who may be looking for entry-level job opportunities. They’re also hoping that young families and workers who already have experience in a career with disposable income will move to the city.
But Desjardins said there’s nothing excluding locals from benefiting from it as well.
“One of the things we’re already hearing is that it’s a great resource for people already here,” said Desjardins.
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