“Nobody ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.”

That is a quote from a young woman who, despite her aspirations, ended up dropping out of school and living off the streets of Philadelphia. At a meeting convened by the White House to discuss youth and economic opportunity, she represented the more than 5 million so-called “disconnected youth” (more aptly recently renamed “opportunity youth”) aged 16 to 24 not in school or working.

My own mentee expressed a similar sentiment early in our relationship. He lives with his grandmother, siblings, and frequently a host of cousins. In describing why he was not used to spending one-on-one time with an adult, he said, “I don’t do anything good enough or bad enough to get attention from adults.’” It was a pragmatic summary of his life to date and as it settled in, it shook me even though I am immersed in this work daily. In fact, there should be nothing surprising about this to me. Recent research illustrated the reality that my mentee represents – the 1 in every 3 young people in the U.S. who are growing up without a non-familial mentor.

Many of us probably remember the times when a teacher, coach, or any number of adults inquired about our aspirations. By taking an interest, showing up, and doing what you say you’ll do, young people feel they matter and their resources broaden. For young people whose families live in economic stress, whose parents hold down more than one job, whose schools are addressing a myriad of pressures, their opportunity to be met with these relationships is greatly decreased. In the recent book Our Kids by Robert Putnam, he powerfully illustrates this widening gap and coins the phrase “social air bags” to describe all the supports that deploy for kids of privilege and correspondingly, depicts the destructive consequences for young people who lack them and are increasingly isolated.

Can a mentor really make the difference? The answer is a resounding yes, and it’s why we at MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) are proud to partner with LinkedIn on this initiative to activate members to reflect on their mentoring experiences and pay it forward by becoming mentors in their community. We know that the impact of mentoring takes hold early. Last year, a study by MENTOR found that youth at-risk for falling off track are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 78% more likely to volunteer in their communities when they have a mentoring relationship. By being a consistent presence in their lives, mentors show young people they matter. They help young people reach for and grasp those connections to social and economic opportunity. They are an advocate, advisor, and a link to fulfillment. And time and again, mentors say they get as much out of their mentoring relationship as their mentee, if not more.

Immediately evident or not, our success is tied to theirs. Reconnecting young people who aren’t currently in school or working has the potential to return to society $93 billion annually in recovered wages, taxes, and social services while also strengthening the talent pipeline. In a rapidly changing, globally competitive economy, this is imperative. As Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, recently referenced, one study found that one-third of employers surveyed have trouble filling open positions because of talent shortages, and 43% say those shortages hurt their business.

Innovative companies are leveraging mentoring as a strategy for building the soft skills of their current workforce while also filling that talent pipeline. In our recent joint report with EY, we profiled 18 such companies that successfully make the business case for corporate engagement in youth mentoring. They support and encourage employees to become mentors, providing meaningful connections to the communities in which they work.

It’s vital that LinkedIn’s efforts to generate energy and excitement for mentoring convert to action. Whether it’s through an employer-endorsed effort, or as an individual looking to pay it forward, we must close the mentoring gap for the 1 in 3 young people who are growing up without this critical asset. Mentoring is no longer one size fits all. Diverse mentoring programs offer great support, fit your availability, and allow you to share your passions with a young person. Let’s be the link to opportunity and prosperity for those young leaders of tomorrow.

As for the young woman at that community meeting in D.C., when asked what her answer would have been had someone asked her career aspiration, she responded: an astrophysicist. Langston Hughes’ powerful poem “Harlem” questions the dispiriting and destructive effects of “a dream deferred.” Let’s write a different narrative of a dream realized. It starts with our willingness to take action one relationship at a time. 


AuthorLorenzo Somma

Post-secondary education won’t close the income gap according to a new economic analysis


University of Toronto grads leave Convocation Hall earlier this month.

Published on Mon Jun 29 2015

Politicians, employers, teachers, economists and bureaucrats all agree that education is the key to lifting people up, improving their financial prospects, narrowing the gap between rich and poor and boosting economic growth.

Regrettably, this almost universal consensus is at odds with the facts. Rather than being the solution to rising inequality, education may worsen the problem, say two Canadian economists in a surprising study released last week.

“Education and training policy is no silver bullet,” warn David Green of the University of British Columbia and Kelly Foley of the University of Saskatchewan. Pouring billions of dollars into university education – as Ottawa and the provinces are doing – delivers the greatest benefit to middle-and upper-income students. Investing in apprenticeship programs and skills training doesn’t level the playing field because female participationis low (9.7 per cent), the drop-out rate is high (43 per cent), and students from low-income families often emerge with heavy debt loads.

The authors don’t object to all education spending. Investments in early learning targeted at children from low-income households make sense as an equalizer, they acknowledge. So does increased income support for parents of school-aged youngsters.

But overall, they caution, “the forces that are driving Canadian wages – like technological change and the resource boom – would not be offset by simply increasing the education level of the workforce.”

The pair reached these sobering conclusions after an exhaustive examination of hiring trends, employment levels, earnings, and differences in pay levels for graduates from high school, college and trade programs, university and post-graduate courses over the past 33 years.

What they found is that the return on investment in education rose steadily until 2000, when oil prices began to climb and computer skills became essential in most workplaces, then stalled. Rather than hiring university-educated workers, employers could adopt new technologies. Rather than staying in school, young men could get high-paying jobs on Alberta’s oil rigs.

“Increased educational spending, especially at the university level, should not be counted on as a central policy for reducing income inequality,” they caution. Their analysis was published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Politically, this advice comes at an awkward time for all three party leaders. StephenHarper touts apprenticeship training as a “key provider of the vital skills and knowledge necessary to power and grow the Canadian economy.” Justin Trudeau’s plan to bolster the middle class is built on raising the post-secondary graduation rate to 70 per cent. Tom Mulcair says university “is more important than ever in this interconnected world.”

The easy response would be to brush off the inconvenient report. The smart response would be to look at the evidence and adjust policies to fit the facts.

AuthorLorenzo Somma

Announcing Hamilton Manufacturing Day (MFGDAY) 2015!


Workforce Planning Hamilton is proud to announce that we'll be working with our partners City of Hamilton, Economic Development, the Industry Education Council, and others, to bring MFGDAY 2015 to Hamilton.


Taking place on October 2, 2015 Hamilton MFGDAY will give students, parents, job seekers and the general public a chance to visit advanced manufacturing companies to chat about career opportunities, training and resources.


WPH recently hosted a manufacturing forum and in discussions with employers heard that the public perception that manufacturing in Hamilton is a gritty, dying industry is wrong. Employers have well paying positions available for people with the right skills and attitude. 


On October 2nd high school students and others will visit advanced manufacturing companies located in four areas of the city to discover the truth about manufacturing. 


If you are an employer and want to be part of MFGDAY 2015 please contact Cyndi Ingle atcyndi.ingle@workforceplanningyhamilton.ca or call 905-521-5777 for more details. 

Labour shortage: The 10 hardest jobs for Canadian employers to fill in 2015

Peter Harris| May 19, 2015 03:21 pm 
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One third (32%) of Canadian employers surveyed say they are encountering difficulties in hiring the workers they need due to labour shortages. according to the latest findings released by ManpowerGroup Inc. in their annual Talent Shortage report.

For this global study, Manpower surveyed 41,700 hiring managers across 42 countries in the first three months of 2015. The results indicate that the proportion of managers unable to find the talent they needed is at its highest rate since 2007, before the recession.

In Canada however, the percent reporting talent shortages is down slightly from the 2014 findings that 36% of Canadian employers were struggling to find the talent they needed to hire.

Workopolis recently surveyed over 250 decision-makers from companies across the country to learn their hiring intentions for 2015. One-third (32%) of Canadian employers told us that they plan to increase the size of their organization’s workforce in 2015.

Two-thirds (68%) told us they are finding it difficult or very difficult to find people with the right skillset that they need to hire.

A majority of employers surveyed both by the Manpower Group and Workopolis say that talent shortages are having a medium or high impact on their ability to deliver client needs.

The top ten jobs that employers are having difficulty filling for 2015

Skilled trades workers | $52,000 [View jobs]
Technicians | $49,000 [View jobs]
Sales representatives | $47,000 [View jobs]
Secretaries, PA’s, administrative professionals, and office support workers | $42,000 [View jobs]
Drivers | $42,000 [View jobs]
Engineers | $76,000 [View jobs]
Management/Executives | $91,000 [View jobs]
Production/machine operators $54,000 | [View jobs]
Accounting and financial staff | $59,000 [View jobs]
Labourers | $39,000 [View jobs]

Salary data represents Canadian median rate from Statistics Canada.


    Why employers say they are having trouble filling jobs

    One of the main reasons that employers report having difficulties filling jobs in 2015 remains a lack of available applicants. The number of employers citing this as their main challenge has climbed nearly 10% over last year to 34%.

    The percentage of employers experiencing a lack of hard technical skills in applicants has actually declined to 24% in 2015, down from 34% last year. Some of the other key reasons employers say they can’t find the people they need to hire are that candidates were unwilling to work for the salary offered for the role (12%), and applicants lack the necessary interpersonal or ‘soft skills’ to do the job.

    “Talent shortages are real and are not going away,” said Kip Wright, senior vice president, Manpower North America. “As the struggle to find the right talent continues, and candidates with in-demand skills get the upper hand, employers will be under pressure to position themselves as ‘talent destinations’ to attract the best workers that will drive their business forward.”

    Source: http://www.workopolis.com/content/advice/a...


    Co-working spaces allow individuals to rent out workspace in an environment alongside others doing the same.

    As the owner of a small startup, an independent contractor, or a freelancer, finding an affordable workspace outside of your home can sometimes be a challenge. While many independent entrepreneurs effectively run their businesses from their homes, coffee shops and other public spaces, others may desire a more professional workspace for meetings, and to separate home and work life.

    For these reasons and more, coworking spaces have grown in popularity over the past few years. Coworking spaces allow individuals to rent out workspace in an environment alongside others doing the same. The Creative Space, in Barrie, Ont., for example, rents out nine desks full-time and 14 by the hour or the day. They also have four offices for rent on a second floor, and open loft space available for groups.

    The coworking movement has roughly doubled in size each year since 2006, according to Deskmag, which also states there are now more than 1,100 spaces worldwide. For someone who works or runs a business independently, renting out coworking space offers a number of potential benefits:

    1. Coworking allows you a designated area to get your work done, away from home, physically separating your work and personal life.
    2. A well-equipped coworking space will have the office essentials you need, like a printer, scanner and other standard equipment.
    3. Coworking is less expensive than renting out a facility all your own. Taking advantage of this affordable option gives you more opportunity to save money in the event you will require a dedicated office space of your own in the future.

    Additionally, a certain culture tends to develop at coworking spaces, which may prove advantageous to workers. As thisBusiness Week article states, coworking facilities “help fill the social needs people have either informally, by simply bringing together a group of people with similar interests, or formally, through networking events, holiday parties, and even softball leagues.”

    When individuals come together to work – even if they are not working on the same projects – they may find themselves being more productive. This is because being around others who are focused on working, creating, strategizing, and making connections, offers a much different environment from your own kitchen or the local coffee shop.

    For a business owner with extra space, it may also be worth considering renting out areas for coworking. One strategic way to do this is to consider the services you offer, and what types of businesses might see mutual benefits from being in the same location. A design firm, for example, could benefit from sharing space with writers, photographers and other independent designers, who may find ways to collaborate or refer clients to each other.

    In addition to the financial benefits of renting out space, those who run coworking facilities similarly recognize the workplace culture they are a part of.

    “The motivation is to make life better,” Chad Ballantyne, founder of The Creative Space, tells the Globe & Mail. “We see that happening by helping our neighbours, focusing on building relationships, doing excellent work together and seeing our lives as not something to live just for ourselves.”

    Source: http://www.futurpreneur.ca/en/resources/st...

    At Techstars, we talk a lot about productivity, email, getting things done, basic business development and fundraising culture.

    Below is a collection of general tips we give our founders. While nothing is ever universal, these are generally helpful for any startup, especially for first-time founders.


    1. Prioritize and only do what matters. Avoid busy work and going in all directions. Say no to stuff that won’t move the needle. See the post on the Power of no.

    2. When everything is important, nothing is important. Establish a language of P1, P2, P3 -- levels of priorities. You only do some P1s in practice. Relentlessly prioritize.

    3. Refuse to accept vague goals. Distill to clarity, then execute.

    4. Never add new tasks in front of the queue, add them to the bottom. Complete what you are doing first. See my post on action lists for more info.

    5. Create and manage your schedule in a calendar. Use time blocks for different types of calls, meetings, heads-down work and even email, family time and workouts.

    6. If it's not on the calendar, don’t do it. Don’t assume that you will be working on something unless it is on your calendar.

    Related: The 3 Worst Things You May Be Doing When Setting Goals

    7. Tweak how much time you spend on what. Find the combination that works for you.

    8. See this post for calendaring tips, this post for email management tipsand this post for product prioritization tips.

    9. Review each week ahead of time on Sunday so that you are prepared.

    10. Avoid synchronous communication channels. Use asynchronous ones.

    11. Don’t use chat clients or text messaging -- they are a big productivity killer because they disrupt your flow. Be respectful of your own time and team’s time overall.

    12. Cut down on unplanned team meetings. It's OK to pull people into the conference room to brainstorm, but just make it clear this is what you are doing. Don't turn these sessions into long meetings.

    13. Set a time expectation and limit for all team meetings. Typically, one hour meetings are the max. Thirty minutes is way better, unless it's a long brainstorming session, but even then, break it out into chunks.

    14. Be respectful of other team member’s productivity -- don’t throw in tasks on top of their queues. This sometimes happens with CEOs, who tend to ask people to just do something quickly for them. A sequence of the quick things becomes very hectic and disruptive to the team members, particularly engineers.

    15. Take care of yourself. Take breaks during the day and take time off to rejuvenate.

    16. Regular exercise is highly recommended. Block off exercise times on your calendar, or it won’t happen.

    17. Make sure you get enough sleep (less than usual but enough). Watch out for signs of exhaustion.


    1. It is a beast. You need to rule it or it will rule you.

    2. Do not refresh or check for new messages, or have email opened all the time. It will kill your productivity. Establish specific hours for doing emails of different types. Read the inbox zero post for pointers on how to start.

    3. Master CC. Don’t CC people unnecessarily and ask not to be CC-ed when you don’t need to be. This particularly applies to CEOs, as they tend to want to be in the loop on everything, and it can be overwhelming.

    4. Master BCC. Quickly move people who don’t need to be on the thread (like someone who just introed you). Teach other folks to move you to BCC appropriately as well. Same for reply all.
    Use your email signature wisely: Put in information that's relevant and avoid logos and images. They feel heavy and get filtered.

    5. Master the art of the short email -- two to three sentences or paragraphs max. Check how it looks on mobile. If you scroll a lot, it's too long. Use the least number of words possible and iterate on the emails before sending them out.

    6. Be thoughtful. Do not copy and paste. It is better to send fewer emails that are thoughtful than more boilerplate messages.

    Asking for introductions

    1. Avoid cold emails if possible. Use your network to get an intro.

    2. Good tools for intros include goconspire.com and LinkedIn.

    3. Connect and continuously build and expand your network on LinkedIn.

    4. Master reading LinkedIn profiles -- for hires, biz dev, venture capital. It's useful to spend time on the profile to understand people’s backgrounds.

    5. Always find relevant people and never ask for open-ended intros. See this post on how to ask for an intro.

    Related: Sometimes Doing Nothing Is the Best Way to Move Forward

    6. Don’t ask for open-ended intros to VCs and angels. Study and understand what they are interested in investing in by looking at their portfolios.

    7. For biz dev intros, make sure that the person is in the relevant role. Find a few people who could be right, and check their relationship on LinkedIn.

    8. Vice presidents are pretty magical in most companies. They either make decisions or will route you to the right director or manager. Focus on getting intros to VPs for biz dev deals.

    9. Master forwardable emails. For someone to intro you, send them a brief and clean email addressed to the target, so they can forward it and add their part. This makes it easy to do the intro.

    10. Have a preference for email intros, but LinkedIn intros are fine too.

    Scheduling meetings

    1. Get efficient at scheduling meetings by creating pre-defined time slots for different types of meetings in your calendar.

    2. For example, "M-W-F 9AM-10AM 15 mins intro calls; M-W-F 2PM-4PM 30 min follow up mentor meetings, etc."

    3. Always propose three to four specific times for a meeting, depending on the type of meeting, and fit it into available time slot.

    4. If the person you are trying to connect with is super busy, be flexible, break your blocks and accommodate them.

    5. Minimize the number of emails to schedule a meeting. If a person agreed to a meeting, propose specific times immediately. Don’t ask them to suggest the times.

    6. General pointers for durations of the meetings: 

    • Intro call: 15 minutes -- people will love you for sending invites for 15 minutes and sticking with it.
    • Intro meeting: 30 minutes -- one hour is a lot, stick with 30 minutes for most in-person meetings you are traveling to unless the other person is asking for more time.

    If you are not sure, ask them if you’d need more than 30 minutes. This is true for business meetings and those with investors. The exception might be if someone is coming to see you and expects more time because they are traveling to the meeting.

    In the meeting

    1. Don’t be late. It is rude. Be a bit early.

    2. Don’t take up more time during the meeting than needed.

    3. Avoid unrelated chatter. Its OK for just a little.

    4. Know the purpose of the meeting, and get to the point.

    5. Don’t be afraid to make an ask, but don’t be too pushy.

    6. Be attuned to who are are taking to and what their motivations and interests are.

    7. Do your homework on the person, understand what they do and don’t do, what they invest in and what they don’t invest in, etc.

    8. Don’t just pitch, listen. Most business deals are closed not with a lot of talking, but with a lot of listening. Don’t talk past the other person, hear what they are saying. Ask questions.

    9. If it’s a no, it’s fine, understand why and move on then follow up later.

    10. Sell by being good and finding out what’s needed, not just by upselling. Always explain the benefits to the customer.

    11. Always have a clear meeting wrap up -- ask or propose next steps at the end, whether it is a follow-up email, call, meeting, introduction, more materials, etc. Summarize the meeting to wrap up.

    Hopefully you will find these useful. Feel free to add tips that worked for you in the comments section below.

    We live in a period of staggering technological change. While society is being transformed by disruptive innovation during this transition, it will be your own individual adaptability that will determine if you are a winner or a loser.

    Every 24 hours, there are approximately 4 million smartphones sold, 8 billion hits on YouTube, 700 million tweets, 130 million Instagram uploads, and over 200 million sent emails. There are now more iPhones sold every day than babies born, and the world has more than 3 billion internet users accessing 1.2 billion websites. Facebook alone has more than 1.3 billion users, which translates to a ratio of 1 in every 7 people of the word. In fact, if Facebook were its own country, by population, it would be the second largest.



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    Video: Only you can sell us on your small business

    The onslaught of the information revolution is truly staggering and permanently reshaping our world. It is causing massive disruption, propelling many people forward but leaving many behind as well. It is creating both incredible opportunities and significant risks, and in the words of the author William Gibson, who coined the termCyberspace, “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.”

    It is not the innovation itself that matters, but its implications during this transition. For the individual, the key will be how to take advantage of these changes, while protecting one’s family, business, career, investments and way of life.

    Disruptive innovation, driven by new technology, has always been integral to human progress. It has moved humanity forward by creating new opportunities, building great wealth, and opening unexplored frontiers, from the vastness of space to the world of particle physics.

    The Gutenberg printing press enabled the rapid spread of knowledge as books became cheaper and more plentiful, ultimately contributing to the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment. The compass gave us the Age of Discovery, not only opening new lands and resources, but enabling the spread of industry and the development of nations. Paper currency is an innovation, though recently significantly overdone, which spawned electronic banking and global commerce. The discovery of electricity gave us new forms of heat, light and communications.

    These innovations vastly improved the quality of life and economic prospects for society. For instance, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the standard of living, measured by GDP per capita, increased 21.7 times from 1820 to 1998. Average life expectancy at birth doubled during the last 150 years, from 38 years in 1850 to 76 years by the late 1990s. Our lives are dramatically better now, largely driven by technological change and innovation.

    However, while society is better off on average, innovation has also produced both winners and losers, opportunity and risk, migration and displacement. For instance, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, over the last 150 years there has been a dramatic migration from the farm to the factory, and then from the factory to the office. In 1840, about 70 per cent of U.S. jobs were on the farm, dropping to 10 per cent in the 1950s, and today sitting at less than 4 per cent. In the 1950s, about 40 per cent of U.S. jobs were in manufacturing – today this number has been cut in half. Where have all the jobs gone? Into the service sector, where almost 80 per cent of the jobs in the U.S. are today.

    For many decades, technology significantly advanced the quality of life in our economy, moving us from a hard, short life of farming, to today a longer life of work in the service sector.

    Mohawk lab praised as hot spot of 3D revolution


    Wsaterloo Record file photo

    Jayson Meyers, President of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, says the key to adopting additive manufacturing is de-risking the technology's up-front costs.

    Hamilton Spectator

    By Steve Arnold 

    A 3D technological revolution is sweeping through Canadian manufacturing and a new Mohawk College lab is being hailed as one of its hot spots.

    The college's Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre, opened in January, was praised Thursday by federal cabinet minister Gary Goodyear as a key to reviving the country's struggling manufacturing sector.

    "This is a trend that cannot be ignored," the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario said after touring the facility. "We must seize the opportunities that are out there to become more globally competitive.

    Goodyear was keynote speaker at the opening of a daylong technical conference on 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing. Sponsored by Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the session was billed as the first to focus on issues around the emerging industry.

    3D printing is increasingly being used to produce things like auto parts, surgical instruments and even prosthetic limbs. A laser reads a digital image and then a physical product is formed by depositing hair-thin layers of powdered metal or plastic the way a paint brush layers paint.

    The Mohawk lab has already been credited with keeping Stemmed Implant Technology from moving to Kentucky to access 3D printing for its new dental implants.

    The bottom line for the technology, Goodyear said, is that Canadian manufacturers will be able to adapt their products quicker as the need of their customers change.

    "Time is of the essence. We can't wait two years for a manufacturer to decide to make a change," Goodyear said. "We have to ask what can we do to help you make that change right now so you can stay in the game or stay ahead of the curve."

    The federal government, through FedDev Ontario, has provided millions of dollars in support for 3D printing and other forms of advanced manufacturing. Mohawk alone has received $11.5 million in recent years.

    For Jayson Myers, president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, that money is critical to getting new technology adopted.

    "We have to overcome the challenges of adopting this new technology," he said. "What we have to do is de-risk the introduction of new technology because of its upfront cost.

    Goodyear agrees with that point, noting "We can't afford to miss an opportunity because banks won't take that chance."

    Goodyear and Myers both said support for the manufacturing sector remains crucial for an economic sector that has been seriously challenged in recent years.

    Nowhere has that challenge been more evident than in Hamilton, where manufacturing employment fell 26 per cent between March 2001 and March 2015. The total number of jobs in the sector shrank from 31,300 to 23,100 according to Statistics Canada measures of occupations in processing, manufacturing and utilities.

    Local employment in that sector plunged following the recession that struck in 2008, diving to a low of 15,100 by April 2010 before starting a slow recovery.



    905-526-3496 | @arnoldatTheSpec