Brock University is one Niagara’s top employers, but that doesn’t do anything for the students or the residents of the region. Not everyone graduating from Brock is going to get a job at the university and with the reportedly poor unemployment rate; graduates from the university almost certainly need to leave the region to find a job.
Last week, The Brock Press featured an article about the unemployment rate in Niagara, which was at 6.7 per cent in December — a 0.3 per cent from the month before and 1.2 per cent higher than the provincial average.
This past week, Amazon announced its 20 finalists for a second headquarters. Niagara put in three bids along with 235 other bids across the North America, but none of the bids from the region made the final 20 — Niagara had its own bid, along with teaming up with Hamilton for a second and New York for a third. Toronto is the only remaining Canadian city on the shortlist.
The headquarters would’ve brought close to 50,000 high paying jobs, so now that Niagara is out, what now?
Niagara Falls committed to a new hospital, which will add jobs but not until 2023 and Canada’s 2021 Summer Games, hosted by Niagara will add more jobs.
Then there’s the future plans to bring extended GO Train services to Niagara, making it easier for people who work east of Hamilton to move into the area since the commute will be easier. However, that doesn’t add jobs but rather increases population in the region.
Brock itself is seeing an increase in enrollment, but the lack of jobs isn’t going to keep students around. The university is doing a good job marketing within the region and outside the region to get potential-students to apply to the school. However, they can’t sell a guaranteed job in the region after graduation — no region really can.
An article in the Globe and Mail in March 2017, then-Brock president, Jack Lightstone, mentioned how General Motors had cut about 10,000 jobs. The author, Adam Radwanski, made a good point that along with the manufacturing decline, and most people outside the region only associate Niagara as a tourist destination: from its waterfalls, wine and theatre festivals, Niagara hasn’t found a way to climb out of the mess.
Brock runs many workshops and has a great co-op program to get its students out in the workforce before they graduate, but that isn’t cutting it.
Maybe all the region can do is continue to make bids to be the home for new companies, like Amazon, but the sit back approach doesn’t work.
Brock is a great university; there are opportunities here for students to strive during their academic years. However, after graduation, Niagara is back to being a tourist destination — a place that was once home for students. Will things change eventually? It doesn’t look like, but the region and its municipalities know the unemployment rate is a major concern and something has to be done.