Whitby’s Ontario Shores, Durham College and OPG make the cut for the Top GTA Employers


Published December 23, 2022 at 9:21 am

Three major employers in Durham Region have been recognized as among the GTA’s Top Employers by Mediacorp Canada in their annual Canada’s Top 100 Employers competition.

Durham College, which has its main campus in Oshawa and the Skilled Trades Centre in Whitby; Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which employs thousands at nuclear power plants in Pickering and Clarington and is in the process of moving their headquarters to a site on Courtice Road South; and Ontario Shores, a hospital specializing in mental health on the shores of Lake Ontario in Whitby; were all honoured by the organization.

According to Mediacorp, the region’s best employers are responding to what their employees value most: more time to spend on family or life outside work, and less time commuting and in-office meetings.

“It used to be the case that having onsite amenities like a gym or a dry cleaner near the workplace was considered convenient,” says Kristina Leung, managing editor of the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project. “But convenience today means something different. For many employees, it means being able to take care of household chores during a break or having more personal time from not having to commute to work daily.”

“Greater Toronto has a tremendously dynamic economic base with a diverse representation of industries,” adds Richard Yerema, executive editor of the project. “Across these industries, we see more employers challenging traditional perceptions of what the ideal workplace looks like, from new ‘work from anywhere’ policies to hybrid work policies that even let employees choose their onsite hours.”

Flexibility and self-care have been recurring themes among this year’s winners, reflecting a growing recognition by employers that many staff are tired and have been worn down by the pandemic. Progressive employers are adapting their policies to ensure employees are better able to balance work and personal commitments, taking the necessary time to rest and recharge.

“The central question is whether organizations can innovate, create new products and succeed in a dramatically changing economic landscape when employees aren’t together in the same physical space,” says Anthony Meehan, publisher at Mediacorp. “We don’t know the answer to this question yet, but from our editorial vantage point we can see this year’s GTA winners responding adroitly to recruitment and retention challenges by increasing the personal time employees have available through more hybrid work options.”

Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology

Here are a few of the reasons Durham College made the list:

  • The college offers exceptional maternity and parental leave top-up policies, providing a full year of paid leave for mothers and 35 weeks of paid leave for fathers and adoptive parents (up to 93 per cent of salary)
  • Durham College helps employees plan securely for the future with a defined benefit pension plan and retirement planning assistance — additionally, retirees can maintain their relationship with the college through a dedicated retiree association
  • They are committed to equity, diversity and inclusion and maintains a dedicated working group responsible for reviewing the college’s diversity strategy as well as explore best practices — the college is also a signatory of the BlackNorth initiative and is committed to ensuring that five per cent of its students positions are represented by the Black community in 2025

College president Don Lovisa is proud of the way his teams stepped up to continue teaching and protecting students and staff during the pandemic.

“We developed a hybrid model with online and in-person teaching,” he says. “Students who required hands-on learning in a shop or a lab came in and received the experiential learning we’re known for. We had vaccination policies, and masking and screening at the doors. We maintained a safe and healthy environment, and the students graduated on time. We’re proud of that. And now we have faculty and staff who are really good at providing hybrid services.”

Lovisa is also proud of the open and welcoming culture he’s helped to shepherd at Durham College during his 14 years as president.

“It’s a culture of innovation and collaboration, a friendly culture,” he says. “I’m often reminded of that when I hear new employees describing the welcome they’ve received at DC. Everyone puts out a hand to say hello and ask how they can help.

“We encourage people to have fun in their jobs, and we celebrate what we do and the fact that we help people of many different ages, backgrounds and cultures succeed. At Convocation you can’t help but feel proud of the work we do.”

Durham College was also recognized as one of Canada’s greenest employers in 2022.

Ontario Power Generation

Here are some of the reasons why OPG. was selected as one of the GTA Top Employers:

  • OPG offers long-term peace of mind with generous contributions to a defined benefit pension plan and health benefits that extend to retirees (with no age limit and 100 per cent premium coverage) — employees nearing retirement can also transition gradually with phased-in work options
  • The company makes mental health services more accessible through generous coverage as part of its benefits plan (up to $4,000 per year for mental health practitioners)
  • OPG supported over 600 charitable organizations in the past year and encourages employees to get involved with paid time off to volunteer and matching employee donations (to a maximum of $1,000 per employee)

As a 24-year veteran of Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Nancy Celentano has always appreciated the wealth of opportunities that come with working for one of the largest electricity generation companies in North America.

Starting as an administrative assistant, Celentano has worked in fields as diverse as costs and scheduling, finance and security, as well as her current role as communication services manager.

“I’ve benefited all along the way from leaders and mentors who have become not just colleagues, but also friends,” she says. “These are people I could turn to for advice and support. I’m lucky enough to now be able to do that for others, so it’s kind of like paying it forward.”

That’s also why Celentano was excited to get involved with the company’s One OPG initiative, which over the past six years has been helping to evolve a workplace culture focused on engagement, collaboration and giving employees a greater sense of ownership over driving improvement and change within the company.

“Culture is about growth and change,” says Celentano. “That’s what drew me to this, because I wanted to be part of something that would make a difference.”

Ontario Shores for Mental Health Science

Here are three reasons why Ontario Shores was selected:

  • Ontario Shores recognizes exceptional performance through various initiatives, including annual rewards for staff who demonstrate the organization’s core values of excellence, innovation, safety, respect and community, and the Going the Extra Mile gift card program, to recognize staff in their day-to-day work
  • Ontario Shores encourages ongoing employee development with tuition subsidies for courses taken at outside institutions (up to $1,100) and a variety of in-house and online training programs
  • Ontario Shores supports employees who want to start a family with maternity and parental leave top-up for new mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents, to 93 per cent of salary for 17 weeks

Employees and patients at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences make it a mini-multicultural community. So, investing in inclusion has been a key focus this year, says the centre’s top executive.

“It’s an incredible multicultural society and when we look at our workforce, we’re quite representative of our communities,” says Karim Mamdani, president and CEO. “Our staff wanted us to invest in diversity, inclusion, equity and anti-discrimination and we agreed.

“I think the reason is because all of us have felt misunderstood. Every one of us has a story where we felt we weren’t part of the group,” he adds.

Ontario Shores, tucked between Whitby and Lake Ontario, has provided mental health care for more than a century, often to people with severe mental illness, through outpatient care and a 340-bed hospital. Now it has invested in a new employee role.

Shauna Moore is the recently hired diversity, equity and inclusion lead. “In a variety of settings, due in parts of my identity, including the colour of my skin I have felt excluded,” he said, adding that feeling of exclusion or not feeling safe could be said for people with mental illness. “So, I’ve started conversations about identity and people’s experiences within Ontario Shores. We have had workshops, group and one-on-one sessions.”

Adds Mamdani: “If we learn as providers about the things that cause us pain, and cause us to be excluded, we can also understand what it means for our patients.”

“We’re always focusing on wellness.”

Now in its 17th year, the Greater Toronto’s Top Employers competition is an editorial project that recognizes employers with exceptional human resources programs and forward-thinking workplace policies. Editors at Mediacorp review employers on eight criteria, which have remained consistent since the project’s inception: (1) Workplace; (2) Work Atmosphere & Social; (3) Health, Financial & Family Benefits; (4) Vacation & Time Off; (5) Employee Communications; (6) Performance Management; (7) Training & Skills Development; and (8) Community Involvement. The editors publish detailed ‘reasons for selection’ for these criteria, providing transparency in the selection of winners and a catalogue of best practices for employers and job-seekers alike. Employers interested in next year’s competition may also request an application online.Employ

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