Recently, I reached my first anniversary with the Association of Industry Sector Councils (AISC). As the first General Manager of this long-standing organization, I have had the adventure of my working life to learn about and augment the incredible work that the Volunteer Board has engaged in for over 20 years.
Originally launched as an informal networking group of like-minded leaders, AISC grew to support one another’s organizations through sharing of best practices and collaboration on solutions to common challenges. Despite AISC’s membership being comprised of 14 very different organizations, having the same patrons – employers across Nova Scotia – means there were opportunities for collaboration and economies of scale. In 2019-2020, a vision and strategy for AISC 2.0 were formed and funded by the Province of Nova Scotia (then, Department of Labour and Advanced Education and now, Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration).
In my role as General Manager, I have learned a great deal this year, including what a sector council is; a strategic alliance of workers, employers, educators and governments, all working together to ensure that Canadians have what they need to succeed in the labour market. My 20 years of economic development experience have given me a solid foundation to be a part of workforce development. The two are inextricably linked, but the nature of the work indeed is different, in all the right ways. AISC’s outcomes work to support people, not multinationals. In the economic development world, the work is about supporting the economy and business growth, seemingly forgetting that it is people who make these companies productive and successful.
Serving AISC’s 14 member organizations that serve hard-working Nova Scotians is a privilege. It is a place of history and foresight, of self-reliance and community-mindedness, toughness, and empathy. It is home, now for over one million people.
After 40 years of Nova Scotians leaving Canada’s Ocean Playground for “better opportunity”, they are flooding back, realizing that the opportunity is here, all around us, in a place that values not only work and prosperity, but family dinners and game nights. Sociables with friends, clear water to swim in and clean air to breathe – because there’s time for that.
In the last 12 months, I have come to marvel at the key characteristics of the people who make up this organization. The side-lining of egos to collaborate, the passion for the work because of the dedication to the socio-economic welfare of human beings, and the desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of workers and their families across this province. The member organizations that make up AISC focus on not just attracting workers to their industry sectors, but retaining them by ensuring they work in a safe, healthy, and inspiring environment. And training them so that their skills stay fresh, relevant, and adaptable. That is what workforce development and sector councils are all about.
My mighty staff team of three (who are even newer than I am), plus the 14 Executive Directors representing their Industry Sector Councils (ISCs), along with our subject matter experts, have achieved so much in the last year. Highlights include:
- Development of a Workforce Insights Survey and collection of 1234 responses from employers across the province – among one of the largest employer surveys conducted in the history of Nova Scotia
- Assembly of the survey data into an Aggregate Dashboard (launching later this month) and using findings to inform new projects
- Organization of focus groups with equity-deserving communities on the theme of employee attraction and retention, to inform Inclusive Leadership training with a made-in-Nova Scotia
- Training of ISC leaders in Strategic Workforce Planning, Cash Flow Crisis Management and Stress Management in preparation for disseminating training to the industry
- Planning and hosting an in-person conference for more than 100 people, with the goal of bringing together the organizations that support the supply-side of the labour force (employees) and the demand-side of the labour force (employers) to launch their interconnection and alliance
- Continuing to build the plane while we flew it (a new favourite saying I have picked up this year! AISC had a lot to administer and manage internally to evolve into a more formalized organization
- I have no doubt our next year will be filled with more challenging projects and issues related to attraction, retention, training of the labour force, within the context of the current state of the labour force. AISC will continue to serve its member organizations with dedication so that they can serve the workers who are here, the workers who left and are coming home, and the workers who are yet to become Nova Scotians.
General Manager, AISC