By all official reports Whistler’s two job fairs — Whistler-Blackcomb’s last week and the Whistler Employment Centre’s fair this week — have eased concerns about not having enough employees this winter. That doesn’t mean everyone’s needs have been met — check out the employment ads, now appearing in more than one language — but at least the biggest labour shortage in several generations isn’t going to devastate Whistler this winter.
However, there’s more work to do.
While Whistler has had two successful job fairs, we shouldn’t overlook the efforts that have been made to recruit employees prior to the job fairs. And those efforts are not limited to Whistler-Blackcomb and the company’s on-line registration. The chamber’s recruiter was at work in the Lower Mainland and we’ll never know how many small businesses have spread the word through personal connections in Australia, Great Britain, Japan and elsewhere.
And this labour shortage is not a one-year phenomenon. While the job fairs in Whistler have worked again this year, they aren’t on the same scale as the province of Alberta’s efforts, which include taking job fairs to St. John’s. Perhaps there would be some merit in B.C. ski resorts pooling their efforts next year to take the message of jobs to other parts of Canada and to other countries.
The message also needs to get out that it is not just T-shirt folders and chairlift loaders that Whistler is looking for. Skilled labour is needed, too. In fact, it could be argued that filling skilled labour positions is more important to the long-term well-being of Whistler than is having enough general labour.
Which brings us to some of the findings in this year’s monitoring report. In an era when the labour shortage is unprecedented in most of our lifetimes, the municipality’s 2006 monitoring report paints a picture that isn’t exactly a recruiting tool for Whistler. It also suggests that beyond recruiting, retaining employees and providing career opportunities may be difficult.
To start with, the pool of affordable housing hasn’t been overflowing with new projects in recent years. Previously in this space it was stated that no new affordable housing projects were built during the 2002-05 council term. In fact the monitoring report shows 55 affordable housing units were added to the inventory between 2003 and 2004, and 37 units were added between 2002 and 2003. There is no data in the monitoring report for 2005 but there weren’t any significant projects completed last year. This year, the first 44 units that are part of the Nita Lake Lodge project should be available by Christmas. So the grand total between 2002 and the end of 2006 will be approximately 150 new resident restricted affordable housing units.