Listen on
Apple Music/

Listen on

Listen on

Listen on

Listen on

Listen with MDB Insight

Workforce Central Canada Logo

Introducing the Workforce Central Canada Podcast

MDB Insight has been a driving force behind the creation of Workforce Central Canada, an initiative intended to showcase workforce development and the people investing in its success across the country. Together with our founding partners in this new venture, the National Association of Workforce Boards and the Hub for Industry Education Collaboration, we committed to what will be an exploration of Canadian workforce development designed to engage, inform, educate, and support both professionals in the field and others with an interest in this topic.

Workforce Central Canada’s first project was the creation of the Workforce Central Canada podcast. It  covers workforce development issues in Canada, including a look inside what is happening in Canada’s industry sectors, the pressures on those industries with regard to talent, what kind of skills are in demand today and what skills may be in demand in the future.

Episode 1: Experiences in Workforce Development

Podcast episode 2

In this very first episode of the Workforce Central Canada podcast, host Ron Painter, CEO of the National Association of Workforce Boards, is joined by Devone Holt and Tim Foster of Rescare Workforce Services, Kelly Hoey of the Hub for Industry Education Collaboration, and Trudy Parsons, Executive Vice-President at MDB Insight. Together, they talk about their experiences in workforce development.

Episode 2: Becoming FutureFit - AI-powered Up(Re)skilling in the age of AI-driven automation

Podcast episode 2

In this episode, host Ron Painter is joined by Hamoon Ekhtiari of Audacious Futures. They discuss the future of work and learning as well as what companies need to consider in strategic decision making when thinking about the future of work.

Key Takeaways:

• Organizations need to forecast and prepare for the future of their business, including workforce needs. Employers need to change their mindsets in how they assess skills and credentials for necessary for jobs.

• It’s not just skills, but networks and experiences, that lead to future ready careers.

• We often focus on things that will change rather than timeless and predictable factors that tend not to change.

• Organizations need to look at trends 20 to 30 years from now and then zoom in to plan high-speed learning sprints in the next 6-18 months.

• Future Fit AI, an Audacious Futures project, is building the Google Maps for the future of work. It identified skills and careers for the future, assesses your career and learning goals, and presents multiple options with estimated time and cost to achieve those goals.

Episode 3: Education to Employment with Polytechnics

MDB Insight Podcast

Sarah Watts Rynard joins host Ron Painter in discussing how Canada’s polytechnic institutes are preparing students for in-demand jobs with practical training.

Key Takeaways:

• People need to acquire new skills and comfort with technology to adapt to changing workplaces and careers.

• Businesses should play a more active role in skill development and connecting to outside students during their educational phase.

• Polytechnics are well suited for career prep because they offer apprenticeships, certificates, 2- or 4-year degrees that suit a variety of careers.

• Competency based admission programs are experimenting with considering candidate portfolios rather than just grades.

• Educational outcomes are becoming more focused on skills and on what students can do, rather than on what knowledge they can recite.

Polytechnics Canada:

Episode 4: Jake Hirsch-Allen, Linkedin Economic Graph and Learning Solutions


Host Ron Painter speaks with Jake Hirsch-Allen, Economic Graph and Learning Solutions for Higher Education and Workforce Development Canada.

Key Takeaways:

• The Economic Graph is a digital representation of the global economy based on over 590 million members, 50 thousand skills, 30 million companies, 20 million open jobs, and 84 thousand schools. In short: it’s all the data on LinkedIn. Through mapping every member, company, job, and school, it is able to spot trends like talent migration, hiring rates, and in-demand skills by region. These insights help us connect people to economic opportunity in new ways. By partnering with governments and organizations around the world, the Economic Graph helps better connect people to opportunities.

• Employers are increasingly recognizing skills and previous tasks rather than credentials and degrees when assessing candidates.

• LinkedIn Learning (with is a database of skills that is helping workforces upskill or transition careers.

• IT skills in fields such as data science and cybersecurity are becoming more and more in-demand as human and foundational skills remain most important.

• At this time, it is difficult to predict the impact of automation, but it may create different types of jobs that don’t exist now which will inevitably require lifelong learning of these skills.

Episode 5: Labour Market Information and Workforce Development

work from home office

Steven Tobin, Labour Market Information Council in Canada Executive Director, is featured in this episode.

Key Takeaways:

• The LMIC’s mandate is to improve the timeliness, reliability and accessibility of labour market information to improve decision-making by employers, workers, jobseekers, academics, educators, career practitioners, students, parents and under-represented populations.

• Information includes not just wages, but also market skills requirements, and current and future job openings.

• Education still matters, but we need to do a better job at specifying the skills associated with jobs. 30% of Canadians have an education greater than what is typically required of the job they hold.

Episode 6: Working in Advanced Manufacturing

Podcast on Workforce Labour Insight

Bob Magee, Chairman of Woodbridge group and Vice Chair of Canada’s Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster, joins Ron to discuss the ever-changing manufacturing industry and workforce.


• Advanced manufacturing is becoming increasingly digitized and computerized, but workers are needed to operate, program and maintain those computers and robots.

• Manufacturing employers are looking for employees who have strong digital skills.

• A shortage of employees in the manufacturing field today is a challenge for employers.

• Partnering with public schools and community colleges to interest them in manufacturing is a smart way for employers to find new talent.

Episode 7: Busting Myths About the Inter-generational Workforce

MDB Insight Skilled Workforce Podcast

Lisa Taylor is President of Challenge Factory and the Center of Career Innovation. She is the co-author of The Talent Revolution. Through case studies, metrics, strategies, and tactics, The Talent Revolution explores the impact of workforce demographics on the future of work and provides new, actionable strategies for turning an aging workforce into a competitive advantage.

Episode highlights:

• Employees are not just an asset but are rather the greatest source of equity.

• Five drivers are shaping the world of work: demographics and longevity, career ownership, the freelance economy, new business models, AI robotics.

• When older workers are engaged in ways that leverage their experience and knowledge, youth unemployment drops.

• The best way to adapt as our workforce continues to grow and advance is to address how we deal with those who have been in the workforce the longest.

Episode 8: A Human-Centered Approach to The Future of Work

Job Interview Skilled Workforce

Host Ron Painter is joined by Simon Chan, VP Talent, Academy and Future of Work at Communitech and Christine Robinson, Head of Human Resources at Manulife, to discuss a human-centered and community-based approach to tackling the future of work.

Communitech and Manulife have partnered in Waterloo Region, Ontario to lead the formation of a community coalition of stakeholders (private sector, academia, and  government) which is the first of its kind in Canada to address the challenges posed by the disruptive trends impacting the workforce.

In their process they convened community meetings, interviewed workers, held workshops, and crowdsourced community-based solutions for those likely to be impacted by these upcoming changes. They also shared their vision for how this innovative community-based approach could be scaled to other communities with the ultimate goal of building healthy organizations and resilient communities.

Episode 9: Micro-credentials, Diversity, and the Future of Work

Canada's Workforce Development Podcast

Kevin Stolarick is a Visiting Researcher and Provocateur at OCAD University in Toronto and a Senior Research Associate at the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University. Dubbed the “Official Statistician of the Creative Class”, Kevin combines expertise on cities, inclusion, urbanization, statistics, design, and economic development with an appreciation of the importance of finding and sharing the knowledge or “pearls of wisdom” gained from leveraging his research, writing, management and organizational skills.

In this episode of the Workforce Central Canada podcast, Kevin and Ron discuss micro-credentials, the future of work, the economics of diversity and inclusion in work, and more.


• Micro credentials are an increasingly useful way to demonstrate to employers you have the skills they want. Credentials should be transferrable to allow learners to transfer them from one employer to another.

• Post-secondary education may have a limited lifespan because there are other more efficient ways to gain skills.

• Not recognizing the prior learning of many Canadian immigrants greatly limits their employment opportunities.

• Kevin also touches on the positive effects of diversity and inclusion on economic development.

Episode 10: Earl Anthony Wayne – North American Workforce Development

Shipping dock

Ron is joined by Earl Anthony Wayne, an accomplished diplomat and executive. Ambassador Wayne has held a wide variety of positions during his career, serving as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and Argentina, Deputy Ambassador in Afghanistan, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe. In this episode, he discusses preparing for the workforce challenges of tomorrow, the skills that workers will need, and the need to understand the global supply chain. His report, A North American Workforce Development Agenda, explores issues about workforce development in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Episode 11: Brock Dickinson on the Effect Automation and AI have on Industry Professions

Canada's economic development podcast

In this podcast, Brock Dickinson, an Adjunct Professor and Entrepreneur-in-Residence with the University of Waterloo, asks the question “how we do prepare students and workers for this new reality where big data and artificial intelligence (AI) have reshaped the world of economic development?” A major distinction between capitalism and socialism has always been over the notion of who owns the means of production. Brock dives into how AI and automation transformed not just the manufacturing sector, but professional occupations and industries.

Insight Canada's Economic Development Podcast

Insight: Canada's Economic Development Podcast

Insight: Canada’s Economic Development Podcast, presented by MDB Insight, explores the economic development field in Canada. We will celebrate the work of professionals across the country, feature news and thought leadership from across Canada and dig into some of the most interesting (and important) topics in economic development today.

Episode 1 – EcDev Origin Stories

How do people get into economic development? In our first episode, the MDB Insight team and host Natasha Gaudio Harrison travel to Edmonton, Alberta for the Economic Developers Association of Canada Conference, taking the opportunity to ask their colleagues: “How did you get into the economic development field?”.

Unlike many other specialized fields, there is no single clear trajectory into this field. The EcDev profession is full of people with a wide variety of professional backgrounds, from business and entrepreneurship to engineering and IT. In this episode of Insight, you’ll discover that anybody can become an economic developer if they work hard, have a knack for problem solving, and are driven to make a difference in their community.

Our guests for this episode included Tanis Chalmers, Carley Graham, Eve O’Leary, Alex Ripley, Jennifer Schnier, Jordan Tidey, and Chris Watson. Producer: Derek Harrison.

Episode 2 – The Zamboni Episode

If the local economy is a game of hockey, economic developers aren’t the players. We are not offence, defence, nor goalies, and we certainly aren’t the team manager, coach or referee. We’re the Zamboni.

In our second episode, the MDB Insight team traveled to Toronto for EDCO, the Economic Developers Council of Ontario conference, to ask our colleagues: “How do you prove the value of economic development?”

One of the biggest challenges in the economic development field is convincing council and the community to invest. For most people, it’s easy to justify long-term investments into infrastructure or essential services, but people have a harder time wrapping their heads around the less tangible – and harder to measure – benefits of economic development projects. This means that when money is tight, ours is often the first department to be cut.

So how do we change that? Economic development helps keep jobs in the community, which keeps people in the community, who pay taxes used to fund everything from bridges to broadband to business retention. When you cut EcDev, everything suffers.

This time on Insight, we hear from experts all over Ontario about how communicating the value of economic development is a crucial part of building strong and prosperous communities. You’ll hear advice from Robert Lamb (CAO, Township of Brock), Michelle Samson (EDO, City of Vaughan), Richard Allen (Manager of Economic Development, Frontenac County), Ann Weir (Economic Development Manager, United Counties of Leeds & Grenville), Rob Nolan (Director of Economic Development, City of Brockville), Jason Felix (Economic Development Manager, Township of Ignace), Belinda Wick-Graham, (Manager of Economic Development, Town of Minto) and Mayor George Bridge (Town of Minto). Producer: Derek Harrison

Episode 3 - Economic Development During COVID-19

The world has been collectively dealing with a crisis that none of us were truly prepared for. We’ve deliberately shut down major segments of our economy in order to encourage people to stay home and practice physical distancing. So as economic developers, what should we be doing?

We’ve all felt the call to action. When our business communities are forced to close their doors, we need to find ways to keep supporting them now, and to give our local economies the best chance of bouncing back when this is all over. And there are reasons to be optimistic; in response to this crisis, we’ve seen government efficiencies, businesses finding creative ways to pivot, innovate and modernize, and Economic Development offices really proving their worth.

We don’t claim to have all the answers. At a time like this, we need to take a deep breath, think strategically about the short, medium and long-term, and consider all the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this episode, we’re simply offering some thoughtful consideration about economic development in Canada as we move through this crisis, and what we might expect when the dust settles.

This episode features Lauren Millier and Paul Blais, two of MDB Insight’s co-founders and Executive Vice-Presidents.

Insight: Canada’s Economic Development Podcast is presented by MDB Insight and produced by Derek Harrison. Each episode explores the economic development field in Canada, celebrates the work of professionals across the country, features news and thought leadership from across Canada and digs into some of the most interesting (and important) topics in economic development.

Episode 4: Business Retention & Expansion

Right now, the first priority is to keep the ship from sinking. Economic developers across the country have been scrambling to decipher what exactly we can do to help our businesses survive this crisis.

But this pandemic won’t last forever. To make sure our business communities come out strong on the other side, we need to do more than stay afloat. We need to steer the ship.

In the name of staying on course, this episode of Insight is all about BR+E – Business Retention and Expansion. Originally planned as episode 3, before we did some last minute rescheduling, we’ve taken the opportunity to explore how economic developers’ perspectives on BR+E have changed in response to COVID-19, with one common theme: it’s now more important than ever.

Collecting good information about what your businesses need is timeless. A good relationship with your business community is a direct result of your communication and your ability to act on the issues that matter most to them. So, active listening is key, pandemic or no pandemic.

We also take this opportunity to check in with our Executive Vice President Chris Bandak, who explains the value of good data. Learn more about our Triage BR+E™ product, newly enhanced to address the specific challenges posed by COVID-19.

Insight: Canada’s Economic Development Podcast is presented by MDB Insight and produced by Derek Harrison. Our guests for episode 4 included Michelle Samson, Economic Development Officer for the City of Vaughan, Rob Nolan, Director of Economic Development for the City of Brockville, and Jennifer Penney, Economic Development Officer for Town of Paradise. Each episode explores the economic development field in Canada, celebrates the work of professionals across the country, features news and thought leadership from across Canada and digs into some of the most interesting (and important) topics in economic development.

Insight – Episode 5: Downtown Revitalization

A global pandemic impacts everything we do as economic developers – but it could be argued that downtowns have been impacted the most. In this episode of Insight, we’ll take a look at the purpose and practice of downtown revitalization from both sides of COVID-19, featuring interviews with professionals from both before and after the onset of the pandemic.

From major development projects to tactical urbanism, downtown revitalization seeks to improve the vitality and vibrancy of the central business district of a given city, town or region with the goal of supporting, sustaining and accentuating its unique character and culture. In practice, approaches vary as different communities come up with different solutions. But COVID-19 is a challenge that has affected all downtowns. When downtowns are empty and businesses are forced to close, what is the impact? And now that businesses are reopening, what has changed? We ask these questions, discuss the value of downtowns, and learn about some of the initiatives designed to help main street businesses adapt to a post-pandemic world.

Insight: Canada’s Economic Development Podcast is presented by MDB Insight and produced by Derek Harrison. Our guests for Episode 5 are Chris Rickett, Director of COVID-19 Business Mitigation and Recovery at City of Toronto, Andrew Malcolm, Urban Revitalization Manager at the City of Lethbridge, and Gary Klassen, Senior Advisor with Canadian Strategy. Each episode explores the economic development field in Canada, celebrates the work of professionals across the country, features news and thought leadership from across Canada and digs into some of the most interesting (and important) topics in economic development.

Listen to our MDB Insight Podcast
on your favorite platform

Listen on
Apple Music

(formerly Itunes)

Listen on

Listen on

Contact Chris Bandak

When you fill in this form, you’ll get an immediate response from us. You will not be added to any email lists, unless you’d like to be: we will email you separately to ask you if you would like to receive more information from MDB Insight.