PEI

Shortage of workers on P.E.I. has some businesses in 'very competitive' fight for employees

Many businesses are struggling to find the workers they need, according to panellists at a recent presentation in Charlottetown.  

'If your bait is a little bit better than somebody else's bait, then they're going to move'

'It affects every business from the largest business, to the smallest business,' says Leah Nord, director of skills and immigration policy for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

Many businesses are struggling to find the workers they need, according to panellists at a recent presentation in Charlottetown.

The discussion was part of small business week events and brought together several experts to discuss the future of the workforce and what employers need to do about it. 

"Employers are struggling to find the skills and the labour that they need for their operations," said Penny Walsh-McGuire, CEO of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Walsh-McGuire said many businesses are having problems recruiting people.

"It's an ongoing challenge," she said. 

Training important

A bio-tech aquaculture company that has locations in Fortune and Rollo Bay said it's very competitive to find workers. 

Penny Walsh-McGuire, CEO of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, says a shortage of workers is one of the top issues for chamber members. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"There's lots of jobs out there so finding folks out there that want to work in rural P.E.I. is difficult sometimes," said Dawn Runighan, director of Canadian operations for AquaBounty. 

Runighan said they employ everyone from high school to PHD graduates.

"There's a lot more jobs than workers right now," she said. 

Leah Nord takes the microphone as part of the panel discussion on the future of the workforce. (Laura Meader/CBC)

She said they often hire people who may not have the right skills at first. 

"I don't find we find people with the job skills necessarily, but we invest the time it takes to develop those skills with people, " she said. 

"We do a lot of in-house training." 

'Get more people into the workforce'

"It affects every business from the largest business, to the smallest business," said Leah Nord, director of skills and immigration policy for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. 

Detry Carragher is an HR consultant in Charlottetown. She says labour shortages are showing up in a wide range of jobs. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Nord said it's not just about hiring people but retaining or keeping employees. 

She said workplaces need to have flexible schedules and provide more training to workers so they can get new skills. 

She also said immigration is important to finding more employees.

"With our retiring rates and our low fertility rates, there aren't enough people in this country or in the community to serve our future workforce needs," she said. 

"We need to get more people into the workforce." 

How to keep workers

Detry Carragher, a Charlottetown HR consultant, said it's extremely competitive right now, so a good workplace environment can make all the difference.  

'We're seeing now that a lot more people coming into the market are much more interested in finding a balance between work and life,' says Sandy MacDonald, president of Holland College. (Laura Meader/CBC)

She said employers will "poach" from others at times like this. 

Carragher said she expects the shortages to continue for 10-15 years. 

"If your bait is a little bit better than somebody else's bait, then they're going to move," she said. 

"It's definitely looking at what type of work environment am I creating for my employees so they will not want to leave."

Skill shortages

The president of Holland College said there are labour shortages and skill shortages that post-secondary institutions can help address by offering more flexible training so existing workers can increase their skills. 

"We may have to offer courses that are shorter term, instead of one- or two- or three-year programs," Sandy MacDonald said. 

MacDonald said he sees proof of shortages with the demand for recent graduates. In particular, students in the college's programs focused on IT, bio-science programs, trades and health programs are sought after by employers. 

"We're getting employers coming in saying we're going to be really aggressive in terms of recruiting," MacDonald said.

"Very competitive, yes, very competitive." 

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