Fernie will be one of the main subjects of a new research project that aims to help build and expand the province’s resort community workforce.
Funded through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement, the five-month project will identify resort community labour market trends, gaps, practices, and employee recruitment challenges in each of the province’s 14 resort communities. The project will be managed by go2 Tourism HR Society, with the research being carried out by two lead researchers from the University of Northern B.C.
“It’s part research project and part strategic analysis,” explained Peter Larose, Director of Policy and Research for Go2. “We are really trying to understand questions like, where do seasonal workers come from? What kind of occupations are they going into? And what kinds of migration patterns of different jobs do they have once they get into the community?”
All 14 resort communities will be involved, however in depth case studies will be done on Fernie, Whistler, and Tofino. Go2 is in the process of gathering representatives from each location’s Chamber of Commerce, local government, as well as one major business representative.
“We are looking to get a sense of dynamics in comparing the three communities in how employers find staff, what kinds of people they are hiring, and what kind of efforts they make,” said Larose. “There is a bit of an extra focus on seasonal employment because that’s really what differentiates resort communities from others.”
The goal is to enhance the overall knowledge base of B.C.’s seasonal resort labour markets. The information gathered will be used to help improve the productivity and competitiveness with more effective recruitment and training of employees, as well as improved retention of seasonal staff.
“Rural areas in B.C., especially resort communities, have really unique challenges in regards to the labour market,” Larose commented. “They are typically quite isolated from majorly populated areas, so they need to recruit and bring in their staff from elsewhere.”
He added, “The other big thing is the fact that we are facing some really significant pressures on the labour market and they are expected to get worse each year.”
Researchers will be visiting Fernie within the next few months to talk to local employers about their specific experiences finding and keeping staff. They will also be asking seasonal employees what brought them to town and what it would take for them to stay.
“Overall, the community has quite a good reputation for tourism and resort development,” said Larose. “There are probably some very good practices within Fernie that can be shared with the other communities involved. That’s part of the reason Fernie was chosen – because it is recognised as having quite an innovative model for resort involvement.”
When the project concludes, the hope is to have a better understanding of each community’s labour market dynamics and to create a comprehensive plan to help address the labour shortages they are facing.
Larose remarked, “Overall it just raises the profile of the labour market, the job market, jobs in the community, where they come from, and the future of them. It also raises the whole profile of the areas involved and gets people talking about a very important topic that quite often gets neglected.”
The B.C. government is investing nearly $70,000 into the project. The 14 resort communities involved are Fernie, Whistler, Tofino, Invermere, Radium Hot Springs, Sun Peaks, Valemount, Golden, Kimberley, Revelstoke, Harrison Hot Springs, Osoyoos, Rossland, and Ucluelet.