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Huron County facing 'immediate labour shortage'

A plea for workers has been issued by officials with the Huron County Economic Development office. The region, which comprises Huron, Bruce, Grey and Perth counties currently has the lowest unemployment rate in Ontario, according to officials with the agency. 

Several employers are struggling to recruit and retain workers, according to Huron County Economic Development

The Huron County Economic Development office is trying to get the word out that employers in Huron, Perth, Grey and Bruce counties are hiring. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

A plea for workers has been issued by officials with the Huron County Economic Development office. The region, which comprises Huron, Bruce, Grey and Perth counties currently has the lowest unemployment rate in Ontario, according to officials with the agency. 

"A low unemployment rate makes it incredibly difficult for our employers to find and keep the employees that they need to grow and flourish," said Chris Watson, Huron County Economic Development Officer. "As a department, right now, this shortage of labour is our number one barrier to economic development."

Several companies have reported major challenges. Wescast Industries is a global manufacturer of cast exhaust manifolds and turbocharger housings for passenger cars and light trucks. In the past year, the company has hired 180 individuals but has seen turnover and absenteeism reach an all-time high.

"We have worked very hard over the last few months to explore every possible avenue to help us find the people we need," said Allison Letteau, Director of Human Resources at Wescast.

Problem spreads beyond Huron County

Gay Lea Foods is also struggling to hire and retain workers. The company has 11 production facilities across Ontario, from Belleville in the east, to Teeswater in the north and points in between. 

"We would have the same issue in all of these municipalities where we are struggling to keep and find, not only skilled labour, but labour in general as well for our facilities." said Michael Barrett, Gay Lea president and CEO. 

A new plant that opened in Brampton in November has yet to operate at full employment despite numerous efforts to hire people, said Barrett.

He said several things can be done, such as creating a new model for immigration for skilled and unskilled workers, changing education strategies to train more skilled workers, and creating a shared cost approach with government to train skilled workers. 

Watson supports those ideas. As well, employers are interested in talking to the community about other short term solutions, such as housing and transportation needs, to help attract workers.