As the economy starts to bounce back after the pandemic, some South Cariboo businesses are finding it difficult to keep pace because they can’t find workers.
Jennifer Feissli, program manager from 100 Mile House WorkBC Centre, said there are currently 135 jobs posted on the WorkBC job board for the 100 Mile House area, with health care and construction among the major industries in need of workers.
“The shortage of workers is a trend that is happening in Canada and in the U.S. After talking with local employers, it looks like 100 Mile House is unfortunately also affected by this trend,” Feissli said.
According to the WorkBC website, the current unemployment rate for BC is 5.2 percent and 4.5 percent for the Cariboo, which includes 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Quesnel, Prince George, and Mackenzie.
“The situation is getting more and more serious,” said District of 100 Mile Coun. Ralph Fossum.
Many local businesses, including those in the food and hospitality industries, have been experiencing difficulties finding employees. 100 Mile House Dairy Queen manager Varinder Singh said they have been struggling ever since the start of COVID-19.
“There’s not a lot of adults or kids trying to apply for these kinds of jobs, and I believe that’s not just myself, but almost every business,” Singh said.
He noted they are able to get by with the employees they have but are often short-staffed when people call in sick or have to follow COVID-19 protocols.
“Some (employees) left, they moved out of town basically. Some literally came back recently. It’s not a lot. We still need employees because we always have somebody leaving,” Singh said. “For the most part, they came back, but still, it’s kind of difficult.”
TJ Flora, manager of the Super 8 by Wyndham 100 Mile House and Westwood Motel, said the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) also discouraged people from returning to work.
“The government gave so much money out. People bought TVs, cars, they never used the money like they were supposed to. Now (the government is) taking it back, and then people the last two years got so much money, they don’t want to go back to work now all day.”
He said in many cases, people apply and get the job but then never show up to work. Both he and Singh said they try to keep wages competitive, while Singh also offers incentives. However, despite advertising in various ways including job sites, social media, and buildings throughout town, Flora said he still receives very few resumes.
“I’m struggling. I’m working overtime six days a week. It has affected, of course, your personal life when you work so hard and so much. It’s everybody, you know?” he said.
Housing is another problem. Flora said he has staff who come all the way from Clinton because they can’t afford the high rental prices.
Fossum added that as more people moved here during the pandemic, there are fewer houses for rent or purchase, which has made “(affordable) accommodation very limited.
“Workers need to find places to live, and that is not easy given the current real estate market,” Fossum said.
The South Cariboo Housing Needs Assessment, presented to the 100 Mile District council in April, found the lack of rental options is negatively impacting economic development within the region with many industries having a difficult time recruiting employees.
The report recommends local governments reassess zoning, land use and Official Community Plan requirements, incentivize rental units and higher density developments, promote and educate the public about modular home options and support local non-profits with appeals for public housing options.
Fossum agreed the District of 100 Mile House must “encourage the development of more housing,” especially for the growing senior population.
“We have a very large portion of our population who are seniors, far more than the provincial average, and we are finding more and more seniors who want to live in this area, and are, in fact, already moving here,” Fossum said. “We need to encourage investors and developers to read our current housing report. It tells the story rather well.”