Rumours fly, don’t they? How many times have you heard someone say that half the people who ‘sleep’ in Barrie drive to Toronto to work? Thousands and thousands and thousands of Barrie residents have to leave Barrie for decent jobs.

You know... rumours.

Well, thanks to an initiative of both the federal and provincial governments (with a little help from the City of Barrie) we now have a definitive study on who’s doing what, where, and why. It was released this week by the Simcoe County Training Board whose dynamo leader, Judy Noel, coordinated the study as a special project. Christine Pacini and The Starr Group were hired to complete the study.

I found the results surprising, and exhilarating, and here’s why.

Of the population in the City of Barrie legally of working age, two thirds of us have full time jobs; 11% have part time jobs, 8% work on contract, 6% have some kind of permanent part time employment. And 4% are self employed, and employing others.

And where are we working? Wholesale/retail trade, 16% with 12% of us working in manufacturing. But, here’s the real surprise... 10% of Barrieites work in the education field, 9% in the health sector (Royal Victoria Hospital is Barrie’s biggest employer), and 6% work in construction.

The study, entitled Simcoe County Labour Market Inventory, also focussed on people’s satisfaction, and Barrie residents as a whole are one happy group of people. Only 20% of us feel like we could do better with our employment. And a whopping 85% of us report total occupational satisfaction... we’re very happy with our work.

While the study didn’t delve into ‘why’ we’re so happy, it did report that Barrie is the happiest of the five regions in Simcoe County that were part of the study.

The other thing I found interesting was that with a population bulge at ages 30-49 (according to David Foote of Boom Bust & Echo), Barrie’s a community with a stable experience level. 10% of us have worked in our field less than 6 years; 15% of us have 11-15 years experience; 30% of us have between 16-25 years under our belts and 22% of us have more than 25 years experience (that would be the ‘grey haired’ crowd of which I am one!)

And what’s it like to find a job in Barrie? Well, those who are unemployed often comment on the incredible quality of help available in our community. And they give the following reasons for having difficulty finding work: 6% say they don’t have enough education; 5% say there isn’t a demand for what they do; 3% cite changing technology as the reason they’re having trouble. It is difficult to keep up with the changes in technology. Do you know that 95% of the products in our computer stores didn’t exist 24 months ago? What’s that tell you about our learning curves?

What are people’s paycheques looking like these days in Barrie? Well, 30% of us earn between $40-$60,000 a year. And 35% earn between $20-$40,000 annually. 17% earn between $40-$50,000 and 21% over $60,000. Sadly, there are no statistics on those who’ve selected self employment, but perhaps that’s another study.

The report points out that a few employees, working digitally or on special projects for their companies earn over $100,000 annually.

By far, when you look at the whole county, Barrie residents enjoy the privilege of working and living in the same community. Some 70% of us do that, with a ‘commuting to work’ time of less than half an hour. And get this! Only 8% of us commute to the Greater Toronto Area. Nearly half those surveyed said they’d love to work at home, serving their companies electronically and that they’d trade off earnings to do it. And after a three-hour drive home in a snowstorm in February, it’s no wonder!

Let’s look at our education levels, too, because they tie in with the other figures...

We have an equally educated community here, with 17% having some high school, 17% having a high school diploma (that’s a third of our working population with high school or less). Then 20% report community college diplomas and 16% have university degrees while 4% have professional designations. There are a few percentages in between, with some college, some university etc. And people in Barrie continue to learn with 10% enrolled in some kind of training and 15% enrolled in job-related training.

And finally, why do people live in here? We know that with six families a day unpacking boxes and calling Barrie home, there’s got to be lots of appeal. “Family. Friends. Near to work. Great quality of life. Housing is affordable. Fabulous recreation. Great work.”

When it’s all said and done, it’s interesting to look at how this survey was completed... evenings and weekends the callers managed to get information from 4,325 individuals, with only 384 going the full distance in the series of questions in the complete survey. To assess the entire county, 24,025 calls were placed, with 1920 full responses.

The report offers much more information than I’ve shared here, and you can have a look at the Simcoe County Training Board’s website to access the whole report: www.sctb.on.ca or you can email sctb@sctb.on.ca

Well done! And what a cooperative effort from the Economic Development offices across Simcoe County.

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