ARNPRIOR – A small business owner is leading a federally funded project with the goal of having the local community lead workforce development and retention in a small rural town.
Arnprior’s Ro Nwosu is acting as executive director of the Community Action for Workforce Development Program, a program designed to support small and medium enterprises, community-based organizations and public agencies focusing on workforce planning, training and work placements.
“The program not only provides opportunities for upskilling and reskilling but also offers wrap-around support and activities, contributing to the sustainable development of our beloved Arnprior community,” Nwosu told West Carleton Online last week (Jan. 18) at Ottawa Valley Coffee.
The project is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Community Workforce Development Program and will be facilitated by the recently created Community Action Arnprior organization.
“It’s all about community-based growth, with community-based folks,” Nwosu said. “They’re looking to initiate change between the way employers and employees interact.”
For the pilot, the program is looking for 10 employers from different sectors located in the Arnprior area, and “between those 10 employers we’re looking to hire 50 people.”
The focus is on underserved sectors in the area.
“Community Action Arnprior is a charitable, social initiative made up of eclectic humans who support and participate in its work and vision to build just, sustainable and inclusive communities,” Nwosu said.
In partnership with CCEDNET and the Government of Canada, Community Action Arnprior is led by “three strong parents of diverse backgrounds who are also business owners, with one goal, providing a space for strengthening community economic growth.”
Nwosu is one of those strong parents who is also an owner-operator of a fitness and lifestyle business called WildRoga, focusing on yoga, Pilates, training and meditation.
The goal of the pilot project is to provide people seeking employment in a community where a diversity of job options aren’t readily available, while removing traditional barriers to employment and ensuring those employees have a quality work/life balance.
“We are looking to recognize and highlight life/work experience, transferrable skills and/or certifications,” Nwosu said. “Training is available, and we can give funding to employers to upskill or reskill employees. We provide access to wraparound supports. Currently there is no one spot where all those supports are available. We want to provide that one spot.”
Other secondary goals of the pilot are to create a clean economy.
“All these businesses get a ton of training,” Nwosu said. “The hope with this entire project is, people know finding employment is really difficult, so this is a community-based approach. If employers and employees have support, it gives them a leg up. It gives employees a chance to get in to a career they are interested in.”
Currently Nwosu is doing her research on how best to apply the program.
“We’re hoping to get community feedback in the services they want to see,” Nwosu said. “The type of jobs they want to see.”
Nwosu says Arnprior is the perfect location for a project like this.
“Time and time again, a lot of the employers I see around here have great ideas,” she said. “Arnprior can be a really great rural hub for that change. Employers here have gone through a lot the last few years with COVID, inflation and high interest rates. They deserve this funding.”
For employees it’s a chance to work in a career they might have an interest and “an opportunity for people to work closer to home rather than commute,” Nwosu said.
The pilot program runs until end of March 2024 and the goal is to create sustainable work, careers and spaces for the employers and employees.
Nwosu moved to Arnprior two years ago, operating her business in Renfrew for a short time before that. She said it didn’t take long for her to fall in love with the community.
“I know that’s not a long time, but I see the potential and I don’t want to live anywhere else,” she said. “This program gives people a shot. We welcome compassionate feedback.”
Community Action Arnprior will host a public event on Thursday, Jan. 25 called Career Connect Mixer: Where Questions Lead the Way. It will be an opportunity for both employers and employees to find out more about the program while connecting with like minded people. The event will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Arnprior Museum (35 Madawaska St.).