Monday, December 16, 2013

Leamington`s challenge: bouncing back despite low educational attainment

There have been a lot of plant closures announced lately, including several in the food processing sector, which municipalities across Southwestern Ontario promote as one of their strengths.

Leamington was particularly hard hit by news that Heinz is shutting down its plant there, where it is both the largest employer and taxpayer. Although there are many places in Ontario that have more people working in the food processing/manufacturing sector, Leamington has—by far— the highest concentration of those workers (NHS 2011) and Heinz was the foundation of the local industry.

Leamington is also notable for having Ontario's lowest percentage of residents with any university or college degree, diploma or certificate, at least among the more populated parts of the province. And, again, it's by a noticeably wide margin:

(On the chart, "SSPerth" is the combined Stratford-St. Marys-Perth County area, "Big26" is the 26 most populated municipalities in Ontario, "SWO" is Southwestern Ontario, from Wellington County west, not including the Hamilton-Niagara region, "SCOR" is the South Central Ontario Region, comprised of Norfolk, Brant, Oxford, Middlesex and Elgin, "NotTorontoCMA" is all of Ontario outside of the Toronto CMA, "MiddlesexNR" and "LambtonNR" include the Native reserves in the areas. I think the rest are all clear.)

As the chart shows, while the City of Waterloo scores very well for post-secondary educational achievement, and Guelph and London/Middlesex Centre do okay, as do LaSalle and Tecumseh in the Windsor metro area, the other parts of Southwestern Ontario fall below the provincial average, and in many cases well below. My municipality—Strathroy-Caradoc—just misses the bottom ten (or the top 10, as shown in reverse order above).

But even among Southwestern Ontario municipalities, Leamington is at the bottom of the list, which will present some special challenges as the community rebounds from the Heinz closure.

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