Special Report

Funeral home workers in short supply across Canada

Funeral homes across the country are trying to hunt down trained workers, according to John Green, vice president of the Funeral Service Association of Canada.

Shortage expected to grow as baby boomers retire, say Cape Breton funeral operators

Andrew Chapman, manager of T.W. Curry Parkview Chapel in Sydney, says he faces a challenge of finding new staff as older employees get set to retire. (David Burke/CBC)

Funeral homes across the country are trying to hunt down new staff as North America faces a shortage of trained professionals and a wave of retirements loom, according to funeral home directors in Cape Breton.

In Port Hawkesbury, John Green, a funeral home director and vice president of the Funeral Service Association of Canada, is feeling the pinch.

"My own operation here in Port Hawkesbury we're seeking a full-time person and it's not the easiest to find," he says.

Funeral homes are looking far afield. Green says it's "not uncommon" for the Funeral Service Association of Nova Scotia to receive emails from funeral homes in British Columbia trying to find people to work.

Part of what's driving people away from the industry, Green says, is the long hours and the requirement to be constantly on call.

There's also limited training opportunities. Green said the Nova Scotia Community College now only takes new students every two years, which means the system isn't turning out as many graduates.

And that's means fewer people to replace those who are retiring. At T.W. Curry Parkview Chapel in Sydney, manager Andrew Chapman says the majority of his workforce will hit retirement age in the next five to 10 years.

"Do we have the adequate staff to be able to backfill those positions?" he says. "At the moment, no. And that's going to be a real challenge."

That kind of scenario will make the funeral business more hectic, Green says. Those who do stay in the industry will have to work longer hours and families will face delayed service.

The national funeral service association is working to try and attract more people to the industry. Green says the organization wants funeral directing and embalming apprentices to be granted the same kind of inter-provincial labour mobility as other trades.

"The problem is, when you need somebody you want somebody that's already trained and sometimes funeral homes don't have the resources to take on an apprentice while they maintain their full-time work force," he says.

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