Kingston Economic Development Corporation Wins Gold Award for Excellence in Economic Development

Kingston, Ontario – October 6, 2021 – Kingston Economic Development Corporation won a Gold Rank for its Queen’s Career Apprenticeship: Kingston, a project in the category of Partnerships with Educational Institutions from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) 2021 Excellence in Economic Development Awards Program. The honour was announced on October 5, 2021 during the IEDC Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Addressing workforce challenges and retaining young talent in our community is critically important to Kingston’s immediate and future needs. This unique program, which was piloted in Kingston has realized tremendous success with a value proposition equally important to the community as it is to students,” says Donna Gillespie, CEO, Kingston Economic Development Corporation. “This award shows the importance of collaboration with post-secondary institutions to address gaps in the community.”

“It has been amazing to see this program grow over the last three years and exciting to see other universities nationwide have adopted similar apprenticeship programs,” says Dean Barbara Crow, Faculty of Arts and Science at Queen’s University. “Experiential learning is a key piece of the university experience and has a direct impact on our students’ ability to source jobs while benefitting the local economy by ensuring these Queen’s students remain within the Kingston community.”

“We have businesses that need talented people, and we have talented arts grads that need jobs, but there is a gap between those two things,” notes Gillian Watters, Kingston Economic Development Corporation’s Board Chair and Director of Programs at KEYS Employment Services. “This program provides a real career opportunity for arts graduates and helps with mentoring support and funding incentives. It’s a win-win for employers and for graduates and a huge win for Kingston.”

IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. 25 award categories honour organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers, following a nomination process held earlier this year. IEDC received over 500 submissions from 4 countries.

“The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the best of economic development and exemplify the leadership that our profession strives for every day,” says 2021 IEDC Board Chair and Invest Buffalo Niagara, President, and CEO Tom Kucharski. “We’re incredibly honored to recognize the outstanding organizations that received this year’s Excellence Awards. This year, more than ever, has presented opportunities to innovate, impact, and progress the cities, neighborhoods, and communities around us. Each of this year’s recipients represents the best of the economic development profession and exemplifies the ingenuity for fellow economic developers to aspire to in the years to come.”

The Queen’s Career Apprenticeship: Kingston program is a privately funded, one-year, salary paid, career apprenticeship that helps new graduates jumpstart their careers and gain experience while helping small business attract and retain highly skilled talent in Kingston. Arts graduates apply to local companies; companies receive four months of funding towards the graduate’s salary and successful applicants have a guaranteed full-time job for at least one year.

“The Gold Rank award is affirmation of the successful partnership between Kingston Economic Development Corporation and Queen’s University Faculty of Arts and Science. Leaders Donna Gillespie, CEO of Kingston Economic Development and Dean Crow focused on innovation and positive outcomes for their respective stakeholders. This award validates the critical importance of both full-time employment upon graduation for new graduates and communities attracting and retaining young talent,” says Alan Rottenberg, Program Founder and Venture Capitalist.

Alan Rottenberg, an Ottawa-based philanthropist and venture capitalist, saw how hard it was for his sons and their friends to find an employer willing to invest in them as recent arts graduates. Rottenberg, an arts grad himself, decided to do something about it by piloting the program in Kingston in 2018. The program has seen great results for the employers that participated as well as the community. Since its inception, the program has launched over 40 careers in Kingston and has generated more than $2.5 million in payroll. Kingston is the first community to host a program like this, though today, eight other Canadian communities are taking notes and working with Rottenberg and his Canadian Career Apprenticeship Initiative.

“I started my career as an apprentice almost three years ago and it has been a tremendous opportunity for me to grow. This program is an incredible way understand the full impact of what arts students have to offer to Kingston employers,” says Nour Mazloum, Communications & Events Officer, Kingston Economic Development Corporation. “We have world-class employers; we have some of the brightest minds graduating from Queen’s. When we can put them together, great things happen in our community.”

“‘Where/how do I get experience if no one is willing to hire me?’ is an all too familiar question,” says Chandra Erickson, Experiential Learning Coordinator, Faculty of Arts and Science. “Most entry-level positions ask for experience creating a common hurdle for new graduates during their initial job search. This program bridges the gap, providing meaningful first work experience(s) and keeping our graduates in Kingston.”

“We hired two excellent candidates over the past few years through the Queen’s Career Apprenticeship: Kingston program. The program allows us to remain connected to the Queen’s University community, while accessing an excellent group of candidates. The pool of candidates provided by program easily represent our strongest cohort of applicants and interviews each year. What we appreciate most about the program is the candidates’ ability to select employers that suit their interests and career paths; encouraging a strong mutual fit from the hire date,” says James Puffer, VP of Operations, Venture Club.

Kingston is the first Canadian city to win in this category and it is the first time that Kingston Economic Development has won an IEDC gold award.

Media Contact:
Nour Mazloum
Communications & Events Officer
Kingston Economic Development Corporation