British Columbia

Laid off workers turn to temp agencies to find jobs during COVID-19 crisis

Employment services and temporary job agencies in B.C. say they're seeing an increase in customers who are laid off from their jobs due to COVID-19. 

Agencies say work placements maybe hard to find in rapidly changing economy

Employment agencies say it may be tough for new clients to find work with so much economic uncertainty due to COVID-19. (Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press)

Employment services and temporary job agencies in B.C. say they're seeing more clients who have been laid off from their jobs due to COVID-19. 

Thousands of Canadian workers from restaurants, airlines and the tourist sector have been laid off in the last week as businesses close to prevent the spread of the cornavirus. 

But agencies say it may be tough for new clients to find work amid rapidly changing circumstances and uncertainty. 

Selena Hansen, who works for Labour Unlimited in Victoria, says she's seen around 30 new job seekers, many of whom were recently laid off. 

The company, with offices all over B.C., pairs workers with temporary jobs in construction, demolition and other labour services.

"There's a lot of landscaping going on outside, where it's only a few people on each [site] working together," Hansen explained, noting these jobs may offer enough room for workers to socially distance themselves.

Hansen said the company has managed to find jobs for "mostly everybody," but that could change as more employers decide against hiring new workers.

"It all depends ... how much work [employers] want to do," she said.

Meanwhile large companies like Amazon, Costco and grocery store chains have all called for new employees to help with the increased service demands during the COVID crisis.

Employers have cancelled contracts

Anthony Newey, manager at Premium Staffing Solutions in Vancouver, said that there have been a number of cancellations due to COVID uncertainty, particularly "in the hospitality industries."

He said the company's focus right now is to find employers who may have work to offer in information technology and cleaning services.

On Vancouver Island, Rose Arsenault with Agilus Work Solutions, said her office has also had cancellations. 

Her company's branch often matches people with temporary jobs in clerical administration and accounting, and is preparing for a deluge of new customers by exploring new job options for them.

"I think a lot of people are still in a bit of shock, but we certainly do have people reaching out to us from the service sector," said Arsenault.

Screening candidates virtually will be tough

She said her company is set up to "help as many people as we possibly can," but it will be a challenge to screen candidates virtually.

"Every individual that we have placed in a temporary position, to date, we have actually physically met," she explained.

"Doing video interviews is not the same as face-to-face... We need to be able to see you so that we can make sure we're sending the right people to the right place."

Meanwhile, the provincial labour service WorkBC said it could not outline impacts to its service at this time.

Carolyn Yeager, WorkBC's chief operating officer for Vancouver Island, said "everyone is in a period of transition right now as services are delivered virtually."

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca. 

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