Survey identifies problems and solutions

Finding and retaining skilled workers is a major problem facing employers in our city but there are potential solutions, says the recently completed Revelstoke Labour Market Survey.
Finding and retaining skilled workers is a major problem facing employers in our city but there are potential solutions, says the recently completed Revelstoke Labour Market Survey.

By David F. Rooney
Finding and retaining skilled workers is a major problem facing employers in our city but there are potential solutions, says the recently completed Revelstoke Labour Market Survey.
More than 50 per cent of businesses polled were having trouble securing workers, up from 33 per cent found during a 2011 survey by the the City’s Community Economic Development.
“In addition, in 2011, 19 trades or occupations were identified as being difficult to fill. Today, many of these same positions are still difficult to fill, but in addition we have identified 37 occupations with high turnover rates,” survey authors Garry Pendergast and Janet Lemieux said in the document that was presented to Council on Tuesday, July 14. “According to the National Occupational Categories (NOCs) of these high turnover positions, 70% are located within the Sales and Service sector while 19% of found within the Trades, Transport and Equipment Operators and Related Occupations.”
Employers have so far met labour shortages “tapping into the under-utilized workforce: youth, women, mature workers (people aged over 45 years), persons with disabilities, immigrants, and First Nations.”
The report noted that women, especially older women, may be an increasingly valuable source for workers.
“In Revelstoke, a larger number of women stop working at a younger age than men. They also engage in more part-time (78%) and casual work (69%). Being flexible with work hours and scheduling, and assisting workers with part-time or seasonal jobs to create full-time or year- round employment will become increasingly important. We suggest that a central agency be created where people can come and register or post their skills. Potential employers can then search this directory for short term or part-time positions or urgent postings.”
The report noted that youth, defined as individuals15 to 24 years of age, could also be an important source of labour. Only 16.2% of positions were filled by young people. Men and women in this category traditionally leave the community to seek post-secondary training, closer cooperation is needed between local businesses, Revelstoke Secondary School (RSS), and Okanagan College (OC) to increase the number of apprenticeship positions, job coaching and mentorship, and training opportunities needed to keep our youths in the local workforce.
“Similarly, the increased use of mature workers, or those aged 45 and over, could also bolster workforce numbers,” the report said. “These individuals can be a real asset to the workforce as they bring experience, technical, interpersonal and leadership capabilities. Workshops and seminars which teach business owners how to attract and retain workers in a blended or intergenerational workforce would be beneficial.
“The use of immigrant, temporary workers, international mobile young workers, and students are all important programs which can bring needed workers to Revelstoke.”
The report also identified potential solutions.
Local businesses need better human resource (HR) planning and the report suggested that an agency such as Community Futures, the Chamber of Commerce and/or Okanagan College be tapped to deliver training, coaching or mentoring in the writing and application of HR policies, and in worker attraction and retention strategies.
“Moreover, a package could be created and centrally housed with sample HR policies and employee satisfaction survey examples so that the community better track why workers come and leave Revelstoke,” the report said.
Comments from survey participants said it was important to create “an accommodating and flexible workplace. Employers could allow for part- time, seasonal work opportunities for those who wish it, flexible break times, job sharing, flex hours, contract work, compressed work weeks, leaves of absence, job rotations, telecommuting, and seasonal exchanges.”
Survey respondents also noted the importance of creating “a great place to work with inspired leadership” and room for employees to grow and develop their skills.
“This type of positive business culture engages workers, is respectful, allows for employee input in decision making, and makes workers feel part of a team,” the report said.
Competitive salaries and perks are also powerful incentives and the report’s authors suggested “that employers review and implement appropriate financial incentives carefully considering if lower wages are contributing to higher rates of employee turnover.” Perks make employees feel valued. “We encourage businesses to review and implement appropriate employee perks such bonuses, merchandise discounts, free company services and free meals (when possible),” they said, adding the suggestion that “the Chamber investigate coordinating an employee discount card like the Whistler Spirit pass or negotiating a corporate discount for businesses for leisure and lifestyle activities such as a RMR ski pass, Revelstoke Swim pass, and so on.”
The survey also had interesting recommendations regarding training programs such as the delivery of a Culinary Arts school at RSS in co-operation with Okanagan College to provide a skilled workforce for the food and beverage sector which is forecasting a growth and shortage in positions. In addition, RSS has a new kitchen facility and the program could provide meals for RSS students at lunch time.
“A Trades, Business, Tourism, Retail or Customer Service related program or series of courses could train locals and attract international students,” it said. “Work co-op components could also be made available during both summer and winter months providing a skilled labour supply. In order to house students in these expanded post-secondary program offerings, the community needs to investigate the building of a student residence.”
Please click here to read the report.