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WB job fair exceeds expectations

Company interviews 1,700 applicants in three days

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By Andrew Mitchell

The good news is that Whistler-Blackcomb should have no problem meeting staffing requirements this winter. The bad news is that employee experience director Kirby Brown doesn’t think the company, or Whistler, is out of the woods just yet.

“Things are cooking,” said Brown, “but the story is that we went heavily overseas and across Canada to recruit and really simplified the process, and we’re coming after a really good snow year. We’ve managed to buck the trend to a certain extent this year, but we have no confidence moving forward that we’ll be able to attain that next year or the year after unless we continue to be fairly aggressive.”

The trend in Whistler and throughout Canada is a severe shortage of workers, both as a result of economic growth in resource industries and manufacturing and of demographics — baby boomers are working less, and many are already retired.

Whistler-Blackcomb held its annual job fair from Monday to Wednesday this week, interviewing 1,700 applicants. Whistler-Blackcomb also has about 450 pre-hires from recruiting efforts in places like Ontario, Australia and New Zealand, most of whom are expected to turn up to work.

In total Whistler-Blackcomb needs about 1,200 seasonal employees this year, who will join the year-round staff of roughly 1,000 employees. Having a solid turnout to the job fair is ideal, says Brown, because it gives the company some choice in the people they hire and a variety of skilled and unskilled work experience to draw on.

By way of comparison, Whistler-Blackcomb had 2,200 people turn up for the job fair two seasons ago, and just 1,400 last year.

Brown says Whistler-Blackcomb has become a lot more aggressive in its recruiting efforts.

“The reality is that recruiting is not rocket science, you have to find out where the people are that can work here and go get them,” said Brown.

“We’re working closely with our partners within the community and outside the community to find new employee marketplaces for Whistler, such as places like Europe and South America.

“Of course a lot of that is dependent on how Canada issues work visas, which we’re hoping will become a lot more open to allow us to position Whistler in foreign markets.

“That’s not something we can count on happening overnight, which is why we’re also working with Mount Currie and Squamish nations, and to see how we can be a more attractive employer locally and across Canada. It’s all about long-term strategies — even if we have a great season again and numbers are great next year as well, in three to five years it might not be the same situation.”

One of the long-term strategies is a program where Whistler-Blackcomb visits high schools across the Lower Mainland, hosting a course on writing resumes. “It’s a way to get Whistler-Blackcomb into those schools as an idea of somewhere they might want to work,” said Brown.

As well, Whistler-Blackcomb is looking at ways to recruit members of Vancouver’s growing Asian and immigrant community, both as customers and potential employees. Like the high school program, Brown says this will take several years to be successful.

The Whistler Employment Centre is hosting a job fair for other Whistler businesses from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

The Whistler Chamber of Commerce believes Whistler needs to recruit at least 4,000 workers a year heading into the 2010 Games. Those projections are backed by a regional survey of employers by Go2, the human resources arm of the provincial tourism industry.

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