Labour shortage, rural Internet among priorities for Western REN

Published on March 9, 2017

Angélique LeBlanc, CEO of the Western Regional Enterprise Network, and Jules LeBlanc, president of Ocean Pride Fisheries in Lower Wedgeport, were among those on hand for the Western REN’s third annual stakeholders summit March 7 in Meteghan.

©Eric Bourque

METEGHAN -- A lack of workers and the need to improve Internet access in rural areas remain two priority items for the Western Regional Enterprise Network, says the organization’s CEO.

“I would say labour shortages remain a critical issue for the region,” said Angélique LeBlanc.

It was among the topics raised during the Western REN’s annual stakeholders summit, which was held in Meteghan March 8.

The challenge of finding workers also “comes up again and again” when the REN talks to businesses as part of its business retention and expansion (BRE) program, LeBlanc said.

Extending high-speed Internet to rural areas remains a priority for the REN too, she said.

“It’s a file that changes kind of on a daily basis,” she said. “We’re still actively working on that.”

Another project the REN is involved in is a productivity pilot, which, as the name suggests, is aimed at helping businesses improve their efficiency and productivity. Seven companies are participating in this initiative, LeBlanc said.

Meanwhile, the Western REN is looking to hire a program manager for its new Connector Program. Funding for the program – which helps connect young people and newcomers to the province with business and community leaders – was announced during the REN summit by Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia’s minister of labour and advanced education, and Zach Churchill, municipal affairs minister.

This was the third annual stakeholders summit for the Western REN, an event that drew about 80 participants, although this was not an official figure.

Part of the idea behind the summit, LeBlanc said, is to underscore the regional nature of the economy.

“Of course, we’re looking (at) individual businesses, but also to show how that has an overall impact on our economy and how everything is really interconnected,” she said.

Summit participants represent a variety of industries. The annual event draws people from the public sector as well.

“Everybody has their different specialties and areas of focus,” LeBlanc said. “We’re kind of the umbrella to bring everybody together.”