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Staffing Discussion Overview

Posted by: FernieChamber
Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Staffing Discussion Overview

This past Tuesday the Fernie Chamber of Commerce hosted a community information session focusing on the staffing shortage facing many of our local businesses. Held at the Fernie Curling Rink, the session was attended by representatives of 20 local businesses. Presentations were made by Brenda Sutherland (Employer Liaison from Work BC), Ian Tostenson (President & CEO of the BC Restaurant & Food Services Association), and Brij Rathi (President & CEO of Brij Rathi Consultancy). The focus of the session was to provide an update to local businesses on the scope of the labour shortage in the Elk Valley and the wider province, while also providing resources and tools for businesses to help recruit and retain staff. 
 
The lack of access to a skilled and reliable workforce in Fernie has become a major issue for our local economy and has been heard loud and clear by the Fernie Chamber. Several surveys have been conducted on this issue over the past couple of years. In a survey conducted in the summer of 2017, 52 businesses in Fernie responded to the question “are you concerned about your businesses ability to meet future staffing needs?”. 65% answered that they were concerned, compared to 100% of businesses that were asked the same question this past Tuesday. 
 
There was fantastic data and insight provided at the information session by all speakers. Brenda Sutherland brought the business community up to speed with the change of contract for Work BC services in the area – now being handled by Kootenay Employment Services (KES). This change in contract is why we lost Fernie’s most popular online job board (ekemployment.org) which has now been replaced by the KES online job board (jobs.kes.bc.ca). Brenda encouraged employers to post job listings on both the new KES job board as well as WorkBC.ca for a wider reach.
 
Ian Tostenson then spoke to the wider labour issue in the province of BC. With an aging workforce, it was pointed out that for every 3 workers that retire in BC, only 2 workers enter the market to take their place. This means that BC is dealing with a loss of up to one third of its workforce. Enter Brij Rathi Consultancy who have partnered with the BCRFA to bring skilled workers to BC via the Express Entry program with a path to permanent residency. Brij described the successes of this program when compared to older ones like the Temporary Foreign Worker program, as a tool to attract new staff.
 
If any businesses are struggling to recruit and retain staff, I encourage you to reach out to the Fernie Chamber of Commerce where we can offer more information and guidance. 
 
- Brad Parsell, Excutive Director
 

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