Quebec summer camps racing to recruit staff

Employers are boosting pay and offering flexible schedules to attract camp monitors before summer begins.

Camps are looking to hire 20,000-25,000 monitors for this summer

Camp staff escort children across a busy Halifax intersection.
The Association des Camps du Québec estimates that altogether, camps in the province are looking to hire between 20,000 and 25,000 monitors. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Quebec's day camps are preparing to hire thousands of camp monitors to meet demand this summer. But getting the workers they need will come with a heftier price tag — for both camps and parents.

The Association des Camps du Québec estimates that altogether, camps in the province are looking to hire between 20,000 and 25,000 monitors. The association says it thinks most camps will be able to find the staff they need, but it won't be easy.

"It's a challenge," admits Éric Beauchemin, the association's director. "All camps in Quebec have strategies in place to get ahead of recruitment efforts."

The labour shortage is partly responsible for the situation, Beauchemin says, but concerns over wages are the main driver in filling monitor positions.

"Our managers are reflecting more broadly on improving salaries," he said.

A sign outside.
Summer camps in Quebec are planning to hire thousands of camp monitors to meet demand this summer. (Radio-Canada)

And while Beauchemin says camps do not want to leave parents footing the bill, he admits that wage increases will mean an increase in costs.

Recruitment race

Nearly 700 children attend Quebec City's Loisirs Saint-Sacrement day camp each summer. The camp has spent the past few weeks recruiting, and while registration starts in April, it is still short 30 per cent in the number of monitors it needs — about 30 workers.

To attract staff, the camp is increasing the hourly wage by $1.50 an hour to $16.75.

Philippe Bertrand, co-ordinator at Loisirs Saint-Sacrement, goes from school to school in an effort to recruit teenagers for the job. His pitch includes telling them about the 60 hours of paid training on weekends before the end of the school year.

Bertrand says his goal is to get to know why they want to work in a camp and are interested in working with children. He's happy to get a single recruit at each school he visits, he says.

"It's more than a job. It's fun," he tells students. "In the summer, you'll be outside, and you'll have your weekends to yourself."

Last week, Bertrand recruited 14-year-old Marie-Catherine Julien at Saint-Charles Garnier high school.

"I love working with kids. I've been looking for a job for a long time," she said. "I saw the opportunity, so I'm going to give it a try."

A man stands behind a table.
Philippe Bertrand, co-ordinator at Loisirs Saint-Sacrement in Quebec City, is going from school to school to find camp monitors. (Alexandra Duval/Radio-Canada)

Playing it safe

In Lac-Beauport's Centre de Plein Air Le Saisonnier — a camp that offers activities like climbing, dancing and archery — registration filled up in February.

"It was mostly full after the first week," said general manager Jean-Philippe Lehuu.

Last summer, 600 children attended the camp per day. This summer, they are expecting that number to decrease to 400. Lehuu says he prefers to play it safe and keep fewer spots open, even if they open more places later on. This way, he says, the search for staff is less stressful.

A man sits behind a desk.
Jean-Philippe Lehuu, general manager at Centre de Plein Air Le Saisonnier, says his camp can't afford to pay more than minimum wage. (Radio-Canada)

"Day camps are an essential service. We don't take it lightly that we will be saying no to some parents," he said.

Currently, 366 children are on the waiting list. How many of those children will walk through the camp's doors will depend on recruitment, Lehuu says, adding that they are still looking to hire 70 monitors.

"We offer minimum wage. Even if it's difficult, you have to attract workers in other ways," he said, giving the example of flexible work schedules.

Lehuu says he would never have dared to ask for a summer vacation when he used to be camp monitor, but the times have changed, forcing employers like himself to adapt.

Based on reporting from Radio-Canada