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Winter job market is competitive

Whistler bars and restaurants see jump in applicants for available positions



The Whistler job market has reached saturation point and nowhere is it more visible than in the village's food and beverage industry.

Hundreds of unemployed twenty-somethings lined up outside Garfinkel's bar last Thursday in hopes of landing one of the 20 or so positions being filled for the venue's busy winter season. Though interviews didn't start until 1 p.m., a lineup started growing outside the door around 11 a.m. By noon, 300 plus people were waiting in sub-zero temperatures for face time with managers.

"That was a big one. I'm going to be honest with you. I don't think I've ever seen so many people looking for work, it's out of control right now," said Dominic Boucher, marketing and promotions manager for Garfinkel's.

"I'm just curious whether we have enough work in Whistler for all those people. It's a lot of people. We had approximately 500 resumes last week and at the job fair yesterday. That's a lot of people."

Garfinkel's relies on a staff of around 45 to keep things running during the ski season and while Boucher admits the hiring process is always busy, he said this year was particularly competitive. Contributing factors include a backlog of people who avoided the Olympics last year and tough job markets internationally.

Whistler Blackcomb's Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC) lounge took a step outside of normal this year and organized a separate hiring initiative instead of relying solely on Whistler Blackcomb's annual fall recruitment fair to fill positions. Managers included the additional forum to ensure qualified food and beverage candidates who weren't aware of WB's general recruiting fair weren't missed. The 17 open positions were satisfied at the GLC's hiring blitz last week.

Slated to start at 9 a.m., eager applicants started lining up for interviews around 7:30 a.m. Over the course of the day management churned through 600 people in a grueling, resume-fuelled marathon during which applicants had mere moments to make an impact. From the 600, 15 appropriate applicants were selected for each position. From there, final selections were made last Friday.

"It was a bit of a gong show that day," said GLC manager Derek Pretty. "Because there were so many people the amount of time we had planned originally had to be cut down a little bit. Originally 10 to 15 minutes per person but with 600 people lined up it got cut back to about five minutes or so. It was hard to get a good gauge of the person and their experience from that but we sort of put it on people to sell themselves as best they could to us straight off the bat and obviously that goes a long way, the first impressions of people."

Large restaurant and entertainment venues might finish their hiring when the snow starts to fly, but Joel Chevalier, WB's director of employee experience, said 95 per cent of WB jobs are filled by September. An aggressive international hiring strategy coupled with an unstable global economy has helped push traveling young people towards Whistler.

"We saw a greater amount of interest this year than we have over the last couple of years," said Chevalier. "I would say with the unemployment rate being high in many countries around the world it's an opportune time for people to go and explore and try something different."

Ten years ago, WB's main hiring fair would fill up to 1,200 positions in one go. Today, the same forum fills between 200 and 300 positions each fall. 900 applicants who applied for those spots this year were not granted interviews and of the 800 who were interviewed only 300 were hired.

Chevalier said that the abundance of job-hunters in town doesn't necessarily reflect a downgraded business economy in Whistler, but that more full-time employees are choosing to stay put. By doing so, positions that would historically come available each year have been taken out of the job pool.

"I suspect some of those employees have some choices to make if they can't find the work that they need to live here and to be here and that would mean moving on to somewhere else, which is unfortunate but it's much easier to survive in a place when you have a job," he said.

"I know that people really want to be here... we really appreciate the fact that people from all over Canada and all over the world want to come here and spend time here and some people have made provisions to be here in a different capacity than they might have worked somewhere else, but unfortunately if there aren't the jobs, there aren't the jobs."