County hears of labour prob­lems, pos­si­ble so­lu­tions

Shoreline Beacon - - News -

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.

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