Ag­ing pop­u­la­tion in N.L. af­fect­ing labour mar­ket: BDC

Econ­o­mist says em­ploy­ers should mar­ket pos­i­tive work en­vi­ron­ment

The Labradorian - - Editorial - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK

The re­port sug­gests busi­nesses with strong, clear hu­man re­sources poli­cies — for ex­am­ple for­mal­ized job de­scrip­tions, a stan­dard se­lec­tion process for new hires, an em­ployee man­ual, train­ing and ca­reer de­vel­op­ment pro­grams — are bet­ter po­si­tioned to defy the labour lim­i­ta­tions.

Armed with a new look into a tight­en­ing Cana­dian labour mar­ket, Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Bank of Canada (BDC) chief econ­o­mist Pierre Cléroux says em­ploy­ers in New­found­land and Labrador need to be aware of what’s hap­pen­ing, and how they might re­spond.

A BDC sur­vey of 1,208 en­trepreneurs across the coun­try found 39 per cent had dif­fi­culty hir­ing new em­ploy­ees in the last year. But the chal­lenge is even greater when you look specif­i­cally at At­lantic Canada, Cléroux said.

It’s also ex­pected to get worse in the prov­ince, risk­ing busi­ness growth.

“The main rea­son for that is we have an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, so there’s a lot of Cana­dian baby boomers that are re­tir­ing and there’s not as many young peo­ple en­ter­ing the work­force. So that’s the main rea­son why we have this im­bal­ance, I’ll guess we’ll say, and our labour force is shrink­ing, and as a re­sult it’s more dif­fi­cult for busi­nesses to find peo­ple,” he said Tues­day.

In New­found­land and Labrador, the num­ber of young peo­ple en­ter­ing the work­force is “not very large” and, na­tion­wide, the pinch is par­tic­u­larly painful for busi­nesses in the man­u­fac­tur­ing, retail and con­struc­tion sec­tors.

The sur­vey re­sults are shown in “Labour Short­age: Here to stay” — a new BDC re­port.

Sub-na­tion­ally, fo­cus­ing on At­lantic Canada, it states close to 50 per cent of the en­trepreneurs sur­veyed re­ported trou­ble in land­ing qual­i­fied new hires (al­though the spe­cific num­ber of re­sponses per re­gion and prov­ince were not de­tailed). The sur­vey was com­ple­mented by in­ter­views with busi­ness own­ers, to bet­ter un­der­stand what’s hap­pen­ing.

“Al­though it’s dif­fi­cult to re­cruit in gen­eral, it is more dif­fi­cult to re­cruit skilled work­ers,” Cléroux noted of the find­ings.

While lo­cal labour short­ages have been re­ported in the past, this is emerg­ing out of a de­mo­graphic trend ver­sus lim­it­edterm projects draw­ing in skilled work­ers.

“This is not a tem­po­rary sit­u­a­tion. This is a sit­u­a­tion that’s go­ing to last for a while,” he said, adding the de­mo­graphic is­sue won’t hit the same across the board, but is ex­pected to con­tinue for at least a decade.

Im­mi­gra­tion is sug­gested as part of the so­lu­tion. It’s also rec­om­mended em­ploy­ers try to at­tract all tra­di­tion­ally un­der­uti­lized seg­ments of the work­force.

“An­other so­lu­tion is to raise ef­fi­ciency or to in­vest in tech­nol­ogy. In our re­search, we can see that es­pe­cially larger busi­nesses, busi­nesses of more than 100 em­ploy­ees, that’s re­ally the first strat­egy they use,” he said, not­ing con­sumers are al­ready see­ing the re­sults, down to the in­creased use of self-check­outs in retail.

The re­port sug­gests busi­nesses with strong, clear hu­man re­sources poli­cies — for ex­am­ple for­mal­ized job de­scrip­tions, a stan­dard se­lec­tion process for new hires, an em­ployee man­ual, train­ing and ca­reer de­vel­op­ment pro­grams — are bet­ter po­si­tioned to defy the labour lim­i­ta­tions.

While these things are also more com­mon in larger busi­nesses, the sug­ges­tion is smaller op­er­a­tions can re­view what is avail­able to their em­ploy­ees, po­ten­tially in­tro­duc­ing or up­grad­ing one or more el­e­ments. As turnover is costly, Cléroux said busi­ness own­ers should also con­sider their pub­lic im­age as an em­ployer, in the same way they spend time on the pub­lic’s im­pres­sion of their prod­ucts and ser­vices.

“As a busi­ness owner you have to make sure that peo­ple know your busi­ness, they have a pos­i­tive im­age about work­ing in your busi­ness,” he said.

While em­ploy­ers face their chal­lenges, new en­trants into the work­force are ex­pected to see the ben­e­fit of more op­tions in the job mar­ket, al­beit with chal­lenges, in­clud­ing the in­cor­po­ra­tion of new tech­nol­ogy and as­so­ci­ated train­ing.

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