ACCES has consistently demonstrated the ability to respond to change. We continuously update our organization and our services in response to an ever-shifting labour market, a rapidly evolving economy, the changing needs of our jobseekers and employers, government priorities and the employment services sector overall. Today, during this unprecedented time, our capacity and ability to respond is critical to achieving strong results for the jobseekers and employers that we serve. We are poised to play a key role in the economic and social recovery of the communities that we support.
In the last five years, ACCES has prioritized the growth of our online and digital services, recognizing that it plays a significant role in our ability to innovate and respond, as well as to reach our clients and provide them with more accessible learning and service options. In 2015, we began to use various online platforms and technology systems to enhance the services we deliver across the GTA, to broaden our reach to clients and employers across Canada, and to extend services to pre-arrival immigrants. With the generous support of a technology grant from Accenture, and the launch of the Canadian Employment Connections pre-arrival program (funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), ACCES began the journey of digitalizing our services. We achieved significant results, more than doubling the number of individuals we serve from 16,000 (2015) to over 39,000 (2019).
This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic required us to generate creative and strategic new ways to provide services to jobseekers and employers in a completely online environment. Our well-established digital systems allowed us to quickly and effectively adapt and pivot. The global pandemic has tested our capacity to deliver online services effectively and we have used the lessons we have learned to build a stronger and more digitalized organization. ACCES also recognizes the need to help the most vulnerable jobseekers that may face barriers to finding us online. Despite our digital successes, the need for in-person human service delivery remains a significant priority in our work.
In 2019-2020, we continued to experience growth, serving over 39,000 jobseekers and 2,500 employers in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond. Across all of our programs, we continued to achieve outstanding employment results that we proudly share in this annual report. These tremendous outcomes were achieved as a result of the drive and commitment of the ACCES team. With 200 staff across seven locations, all of us are united in our work and share a passion for our mission, creating more diverse and representative Canadian workplaces.
This past year, we also launched new programs to meet the unique needs of women, refugees and youth. Together with Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC), we launched Career Pathways for Newcomer Women, a program focused on developing 21st century skills and the ability to thrive in fast-paced and changing work environments. In collaboration with the Geneva Centre for Autistic Youth, we adapted our Youth Job Connections program to meet the unique job search needs of this community. In collaboration with TENT, Starbucks, World Education Services, the Refugee Roundtable, and a number of partner employment service providers from across the GTA, ACCES delivered two refugee hiring events. Over 210 refugees and jobseekers met with 25 employers and community partners in the Toronto and Peel regions. The employers made 47 on-the-spot job offers and 140 on-the-spot conditional offers at these events. Finally, ACCES also began serving the Newmarket community this past year and we look forward to opening a physical location in the fall of 2020.
We recognize the essential support of our funders: The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC); United Way Greater Toronto and the City of Toronto. ACCES acknowledges the funding and partnership of Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC) and the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) in the delivery of two IRCC funded programs. ACCES also extends our thanks to our generous program sponsors and donors including: Accenture, TD Bank Group, RBC Royal Bank, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Toronto Pearson (Greater Toronto Airport Authority), Starbucks Canada and Starbucks Foundation, BMO Bank of Montreal, CPA Ontario, HP Canada, Google and Deloitte. We also thank our Board of Directors for their leadership and guidance of ACCES and the generous amount of time that they have each contributed to ensure our ongoing success.
This past year, ACCES has worked with a number of employer partners in different ways including recruitment, volunteering, pro-bono support and delivering customized services to jobseekers with an industry focus. Toronto Pearson committed to supporting ACCES’s Speed Mentoring program® in Peel Region, helping hundreds of newcomers to connect with mentors in their field. RBC continues to offer significant support in reaching jobseekers and newcomers online, broadening and increasing ACCES’s reach with customized workshop and webinar content to thousands of participants across Ontario, Canada and internationally to pre-arrival immigrants. We are also proud to continue providing services to newcomers and jobseekers through the RBC Meeting Place co-located at our ACCES Markham location.
With TD’s support, ACCES is addressing issues related to income instability for newcomers through future-skills development, much-needed STEM training for underrepresented groups, reducing and removing the barriers facing women jobseekers and helping to curb unemployment and underemployment among internationally trained professionals new to Canada. Specifically, TD’s recent generous support and sponsorship has strengthened and enhanced ACCES’s Women in Technology, Empowering Women, Cybersecurity Connections and Talk English Café programming.
In 2019, ACCES received a $1.1 million technology grant from Accenture to develop an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered bot to improve services for job seekers, including newcomers to Canada. The digital solution will enhance ACCES services and our capacity to support more jobseekers to secure jobs that align with their education and experience. VERA (Virtual Employment and Resource Attendant) is currently in BETA and will be fully launched in fall 2020.
All of these employer partnerships serve to enhance our work with jobseekers and ACCES’s capacity to grow innovative, industry-focused programs and services that maximize our resources and ability to help jobseekers succeed.
At ACCES, our work is rooted in the breaking down of barriers and our deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. As we move forward this year into a future with so many unknowns, we want to reiterate our commitment to the fight against anti-black racism and all discrimination both within our workplace and our communities. We look forward to making real change in collaboration with our many employer and community partners, and through the hard work and passion of our richly diverse staff team members, including our newly formed black staff network, BACC (Black Action Coalition for Change).
John and I are excited to share with you our 2019-2020 Annual Report, Digitalization and Innovation, Preparing our Future Labour Force, and our many stories and successes from this past year. We hope you enjoy it.