Northwestern Ontario needs to get ready for new job opportunities — and an international economic development expert is in Thunder Bay to help the region do just that.

The North Superior Workforce Planning Board has invited economic development expert Thomas Townsend to lead a forum called "Think Globally... Act Locally," which will be attended by community agencies, educators and business leaders.

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Madge Richardson, executive director of the North Superior Workforce Planning Board, says growth in the mining, forestry and health care sectors will have a ripple effect that can be capitalized on by businesses and workers in the region. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

"What we hope to gain ... is certainly for Thomas to ... revisit what's happening in the world, and how does that translate and impact Ontario, and more specifically the district of Thunder Bay," said Madge Richardson, executive director of the North Superior Workforce Planning Board.

Global commodities drive local job opportunities, she said, adding that mining, a resurging forestry industry, and health care are all growth sectors in the northwest.  

"Because of those industries growing, all of the other services and companies that are out there that support those industries will in turn also grow."

Workers needed

But can Thunder Bay provide the workers to fill those jobs?

It’s a critical question for the region, as for the last several years, government-funded programs have focused on dealing with job loss, Richardson said.

She noted money needs to be redirected to preparing people in Thunder Bay for the types of jobs that are coming. That means making sure schools and job centres offer the right programs — from literacy to specialized skills.

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Thomas Townsend is an economic development consultant who will be speaking in Thunder Bay on Tuesday. He has worked with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. He is a visiting scholar at the Centre for Public Management and Policy, University of Ottawa and a visiting Professor at the KDI School in Seoul, Korea and lecturer at the Global MBA Programme, in Turku, Finland. (Supplied)

Richardson said it also means providing the funding people need to take that training. She said the agencies and government ministries that provide funding need to change gears and look at "positive adjustment," to make sure people are being trained to meet the employment demand.

"The companies, regardless of what sector or industry they're ... operating in, if there is no workforce, they wouldn't be able to open here," she said.

"So it's very important that we have the workforce that's able to meet those challenges. We have to switch our mindset, start planning and make sure things are in place."