PENTICTON - Among the findings of a city consultant discussing strategies to maximize opportunities for employers and employees in the region is a need to include everyone in the region who wishes to work, not just select groups.
Members of the city’s Committee of the Whole heard Executive Vice-President of MDB Insight Trudy Parsons deliver her overview of the labour market on March 21, prior to the submission of her final report at the end of the month.
“Right now, a number of strategies have been done looking at skilled labour and immigration, but the region also has mature workers, workers facing health or mental barriers that don’t currently fit into any strategy - we need to be accessing everyone in the labour force who wants to work,” Parsons says, adding the strategy developed would “collect, but not duplicate” what is already done.
Parsons says the Penticton and the South Okanagan needs an inclusive labour strategy with a formalized economic development initiative that will create local jobs, maximize the connection between the region’s skilled labour supply and its skilled labour demands, and provide an increased connection with educational institutions in order to coordinate educational efforts with local labour market needs.
The city’s image as a welcoming community for skilled workers and their families to settle and stay also needs refreshing, she says.
Parsons' examination of local labour market conditions revealed employers found it difficult to recruit new skilled employees from outside the area because of concerns of limited career mobility and the size of the region’s population.
“If a skilled employee moves his whole family here, and the position doesn’t work out, there may not be any other suitable work available, and that can have significant financial considerations,” she says.
Dual family employment also plays a big role in recruiting skilled labour to the region, Parsons says.
“Even if they get here and they’ve lived here for a year or two, if the family hasn’t settled in, there’s that risk they’re going to relocate out of the area,” she says.
A number of employers told Parsons word of mouth was one of the most successful ways local employment needs are filled, although some are using the college as a pool for talent.
The idea of engaging local educational institutions to increase and coordinate curriculum with local labour market needs was looked at favourably by employers in the area, but she says more dialogue is needed between educators and the labour market.
Parsons says tying a labour market strategy to an economic development strategy will create a solid foundation that can be developed through a thorough understanding of local business, its projected growth and what occupations it will need in the future.
The research was made possible through a $70,000 provincial grant provided in 2015 to look at labour market trends in the region, in an effort to find out what needs to be done to attract and retain skilled labour to the area.
The next steps include the formulation of an implementation plan for a regional economic strategy over the next three years, with reports and performance evaluations made public at the end of each 12 month period.
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