PENTICTON - It’s going to take a creative touch for businesses to acquire the skilled trade workers and permanent training resources needed to satisfy the demands of the growing industrial sector in Penticton.
Job retention isn’t just about economic development opportunities, says economic development director, Colleen Pennington—it’s also about investing in the arts community, the waterfront trail, and recreation services.
“If we’re trying to retain youth here on jobs alone, we’re going to lose to the oil patch,” she says.
But what Penticton can’t offer in oil-sands salaries, it can make up for in lifestyle, and that also needs to be taken into consideration when recruiting both young people and experienced workers, she says.
Pennington has visited several businesses to understand what employers are looking for, so the city can shape initiatives around employers’ needs.
“We know there’s demand” for skilled trade programs, says Pennington, it’s just a matter of working with businesses and acquiring the resources.
It’s all about being creative and innovative in the way you recruit, she says. Young people “are not likely to respond to an ad in the paper,” she says. There also needs to be more focus apprenticeships, which are risky for employers.
"But that’s part of the game," she says.
The city presented the issue of job retention and training for skilled trade workers to provincial ministers at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in September, and it was well-received, said Coun. Helena Konanz who has made presentations on job creation and retention to ministers at the convention for the last three years.
Each year the discussion becomes more specific, she says. For example, this year they talked about a permanent welding program for Penticton, since welding jobs have one of the highest demands.
There’s a much better chance that young people will stay in Penticton if programs are offered starting at the high-school level, and if they are permanent, she says. There is currently a rotating welding program at Okanagan College but it is only offered every 12 to 18 months, so enrolment is low. If it was offered all the time, there would be a greater interest, especially since there are local jobs available for students once they are certified, she says.
Welders are one of the top five hardest-to-employ occupations in the Okanagan. It is sandwiched between other manufacturing jobs, that rank third and sixth on a list created from results of a 2014 Okanagan Jobs Survey. The same survey shows that employers request essential skills training for works more than any other human resource-related issue.
Jobs Minister Shirley Bond, who was at the presentation, had a tour of Penticton’s industrial sector last year, so she’s “seen what the community has to offer” and what it needs, Konanz says.
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