NWPB in the Community - #smartcitiesCanada and Research Supporting Agriculture in Niagara

Posted in News, NWPB in the Community

From left: NWPB Research Associate Thalia Semplonius, Operations & Research Manager Adam Durrant, and Research Assistant Sean Calcott. (Photo credit: Luke Edwards/Metroland)
(From left: NWPB Research Associate Thalia Semplonius, Operations & Research Manager Adam Durrant, and Research Assistant Sean Calcott present the early findings from NWPB's recent research into the local agricultural workforce. Photo credit: Luke Edwards/Metroland)

When you think of the word "community," you might envision a tight-knit group of people, sharing and connecting to everyone's mutual benefit. Community is a place of belonging - if you are part of a community, you belong to it, and you have a role to play within it. A sense of belonging fosters a sense of security and contentment. The more people within a community feel connected to it, the greater their sense of belonging, and the better they feel.

NWPB has always been mindful of the importance of creating and strengthening connections within the Niagara community, and this past month has given us two exciting new opportunities to do so.

On May 15th, we presented the early results of our work on the most recent addition to our Region Building Series. Our report, "Labour Force Indicators in Agriculture and Agriculture Supporting Industries," represents a first and current look at the agricultural labour force in Niagara, with the results of this research opening many doors for further study. This report came together through a partnership with Niagara Region Economic Development, with the purpose of providing greater insight into the unique labour force needs, not only of agricultural employers in Niagara, but also of those employers whose goods and/or services support agriculture in Niagara. Information on the latter group is unique to this data set, making this work particularly valuable in bringing greater awareness to the needs of this integral part of the workforce.

NWPB worked with our partners in Regional Economic Development to develop a survey tool that would allow us to measure areas such as:
  • hiring and retirement patterns
  • retention and retraining of employees
  • professional development opportunities
  • automation
  • succession planning
For the purpose of facilitating this survey, we hired three research assistants - Sean Calcott, Melanie Davis, and Katherine MacCabe - who met personally with employers at their place of business or conducted interviews over the phone.

Our initial goal was to complete 50 interviews; but thanks to incredibly positive response and willingness by employers to participate in this project, the final employer count was 78. This resulted in a more complete and accurate picture of the workforce needs within this sector, and we want to extend our sincerest appreciation to each of the employers who took time out of their day to meet with our researchers and complete our survey. This data set only exists because these local employers recognized the value of connecting with us and building a data-driven narrative for supporting the local economy and local economic development activities.

You can view and download the full report by clicking this link. The St. Catharines Standard and Niagara This Week also each provide a summary of some of the data highlighted at Tuesday's presentation.

Mario De Divitiis at Niagara's State of the Union presentation

NWPB Research Associate, Thalia Semplonius (back, second from left) and Chief Executive Officer, Mario De Divitiis (back, fourth from right), met with representatives from the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation and project leads for Smart Cities Niagara on May 14 at NWPB's office in downtown St. Catharines. Photo credit: @CityInclusive

Our research into the agricultural labour force wasn't the only important connection we worked on this month. The day before presenting our agriculture data, Our CEO, Mario De Divitiis, and our Research Associate, Thalia Semplonius, met with five International Fellows of the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation and the Smart Cities Niagara project leads to discuss Niagara’s Smart Cities application. NWPB is proud to be an active participant in Niagara's entry into the Smart Cities challenge. We have committed, alongside other respected research institutions in Niagara such as Niagara Research at Niagara College, Brock University's Niagara Community Observatory, and the Niagara Open Data Consortium, to openly contribute our data and resources toward meeting Niagara's collective goals for the Smart Cities initiative.

The challenge for Niagara's Smart City application is one that is near and dear to our hearts: Niagara will be taking on the task of increasing the sense of belonging among its residents in every municipality. In particular, Niagara as a community will be aiming to make its ‘invisible’ members of society visible, and develop reimagined connectivity hubs to enable greater participation in work, health care, and social initiatives for all. We believe that a more inclusive and caring community is a more prosperous one, and we aim to be part of that vision for Niagara. You can read Niagara's full Smart City application at smartcitiesniagara.ca/application/

Be sure to keep up with us on Twitter or keep coming back to our blog for future updates on these and other projects, as we continue our work in bringing people together for a stronger, more connected and happy Niagara.