County hears of labour problems, possible solutions
a rapidly shrinking workforce together with a low unemployment rate and an aging population are among the major issues identified in a planning report for greyBruce-huron-Perth.
gemma Mendez-Smith, executive director of the Four county labour Market Planning Board, told Bruce county council Jan. 3 that the unemployment rate for the region in november was 3.6 per cent, while the ontario average a few months prior to that was 5.6 per cent.
“over the last 10 months the four county region has been the lowest employment rate across the province and that is definitely proving to be a challenge for us,” she said.
She also said that 74 per cent of employersratedtheavailabilityofqualified workers as fair to poor and 21 per cent of the employers spent a year trying to fill hard-to-fill positions.
The reasons for the difficulty filling these positions included not enough employment applications, a lack of qualifications among those that apply and a lack of work experience.
She said employers are looking for workers with a strong work ethic, are dedicated team players and have a sense of customer service.
her report noted that during the five year period between 2011 and 2016, 13,219 people moved into the area while 12,720 people moved out. one of the challenges, she said, is how to convince people to stay in the area.
Mendez-Smith said the area has a large aging population, some of whom are retiring and taking with them some valuable skills, which is adding to the shortage in the labour market.
“We do have some people that will be exiting the labour force, the baby boomer demographic and then we have some positions left open and certainly lots of skills, experience and knowledge exiting the labour force.”
She said her survey indicated that older workers reported that it was a challenge for them to find work in the region.
“and as that demographic leaves the workforce we will have an issue to fill that position with the same level of skill and knowledge,” she said.
She suggested strategies are needed to ramp up the skills of the people already living here, a need to reengage people who have left the area to bring them back, and showcasing local opportunities to get new people to migrate to the region.
“those are the three strategies that we see as being good foundational pieces for workforce development and workforce growth over the next five years,” she said.
Mendez-Smith reiterated another concern about the need for more affordable housing and transportation especially for entry-level workers.
“We are talking about just slightly above minimum wage. When we look at those positions in the places that need people to work, they can’t live there. in Bruce county i would say the average price of housing along the shoreline, Kincardine, Port Elgin, Saugeen Shores is going to be higher . . . it will be very difficult for people to live in those communities and work in those communities,” said Mendez-Smith,
as a result they have to move out of the community and more inland to be able to find more affordable housing and then transportation becomes an issue.
“So we really need to talk about how we’re going to mitigate those challenges and for those people who are interested and ready to take on those jobs. But housing and transportation are still a barrier,” she said.