Currently EK Employment has over 115 job postings, offering close to 200 job vacancies in tourism and hospitality, contracting and construction, sales and services, healthcare and childcare. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Employers buy property to attract workers

Elk Valley employers are buying up property in a desperate bid to attract workers.

Those who can’t afford to provide housing for their employees are being forced to work long hours with little time off or close their businesses early due to staff shortages, according to EK Employment Elk Valley.

The Work BC Employment Services Centre currently has over 115 job postings offering close to 200 job vacancies in tourism and hospitality, contracting and construction, sales and services, health and childcare.

EK Employment Marketing and Community Engagement Liaison Brenda Sutherland said some business owners have started investing in housing to offer to their employees as an added incentive to work for them.

They have found it easier to hire new staff. However, Sutherland says that not all businesses can make the costly investments to provide housing for their employees and therefore continue to struggle every year.

Teck Coal Ltd. recently announced its plans to develop a 500-person temporary workforce accommodation camp to mitigate their demand for workers.

“But in Fernie, this is not an easy task,” said Sutherland. “Available and affordable housing remains the biggest barrier for companies to get the workers needed.”

The industries hardest hit by the labour shortage are hospitality and construction, with experienced Class 1 Drivers and Equipment Operators and childcare workers in greatest demand.

It follows low turnout to the annual Fall Community Job Fair.

The event was held in October to support Elk Valley employees who were struggling to fill more than 260 vacancies as a result of a lack of affordable housing.

The event attracted an underwhelming 140 job seekers, just half of the average number who usually attend.

However at the opposite end of the scale, the job fair brought in over 34 employers which is the highest participation to date.

Sutherland said there were several businesses who would have liked to attend but could not because they had to personally tend to their store.

“Normally, the average number of jobseekers who attend range from 260 – 300 jobseekers,” she said.

“This year, only 140 attended, so the employer participation increased and the jobseeker participation decreased.”

Sutherland said this was a disappointment compared to the previous four years.

“Teck Coal is always popular at our job fair and they tend to get a lot of applicants, but for the small business owners in the area, it has been very difficult for them to gain the staff they need for both the winter and summer seasons,” she said.

Earlier in the year, EK Employment hosted its first spring job fair to assist employers with recruitment. This job fair saw a similar trend, with high employer participation but only 100 job seekers attending.

Sutherland says she believes the main reason for the decrease in jobseeker numbers is the cost of living, pay rates and, most critically, a lack of affordable housing options.

“Potential foreign jobseekers cannot find housing availability or cannot afford the high cost of rent,” she said.

“Therefore, they are seeking other tourism destinations where employers and communities can fill housing and rental needs.”

Currently EK Employment has over 115 job postings, offering close to 200 job vacancies in tourism and hospitality, contracting and construction, sales and services, healthcare and childcare.

For more information about employment, stop by EK Employment at 302 2nd Ave, call 250-423-4204 or email Brenda Sutherland at brendas@ekemployment.org.

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