PEI

P.E.I. government facing 'lots of competition' to fill vacant jobs

Many businesses and the provincial government are dealing with worker shortages in a number of areas.

'Our workforce is changing we are really focused on bringing in youth now'

Provincial government buildings in Charlottetown are home to numerous government workers. (Laura Meader/CBC)

The government of P.E.I. is struggling to fill jobs in a number of fields. 

Marney MacKinnon, the director of staffing for P.E.I.'s Public Service Commission, said it's become harder to fill many positions over the last few years.  

"I think there's lots of competition out there for any positions, private sector, public sector, we're all in the same boat, and we really need to work hard to be able to recruit," she said. 

MacKinnon said the province is dealing with shortages in a number of departments as older workers are retiring, and there are fewer people working in casual pools ready to move into permanent jobs. 

Some of the jobs that have been harder to fill include: social workers, youth workers, entry-level solicitors, information technology positions, heavy duty mechanics, correctional officers and administrative assistants. 

Marney MacKinnon, director of staffing for the P.E.I. Public Service Commission, says shortages can be challenging, but recruitment efforts should pay off. (Laura Meader)

MacKinnon said the shortage of administrative assistants highlights the trend of better economic times, and worker shortages. 

"It's interesting we would not have expected that," she said. 

"We continue to work with the programs across the province who put on the admin support training as well, to identify that's an area of need for us."

Good news for young workers

Matt Barlow has benefited from the demand for workers. 

The 22-year-old got a job as an administrative support worker right after taking a business administration program. 

"I didn't expect to land a job with the province so quickly, just coming right out of school," Barlow said. 

Matt Barlow landed a job and says these are good times for young employees. 'I didn't expect to land a job with the province so quickly.' (Laura Meader/CBC )

Barlow got hired after doing a college placement with the province's Public Service Commission. 

He now helps manage an online job board and sees just how many workers they need. 

"There's certainly a large number of them," he said.

"I think since I've been here in May, I've posted over 1,000, so there's definitely no shortage of jobs coming through here." 

Tight labour market

Those who work in recruiting said these are good times for employees and tougher times for employers. 

Blake Doyle runs Island Recruiting and works with employers to find candidates locally and internationally.

Doyle said P.E.I.'s strong economy and low unemployment rates make for an "unprecedented time." 

We want to continue to market who we are.— Marney MacKinnon, P.E.I. Public Service Commission

"Employees have a lot more options, they really have control of where they search for employment," Doyle said. 

He said the province is still a desirable employer where benefits can be better than the private sector, but he said worker shortages are hitting everyone. 

"We've been looking here at labour statistics and data and doing recruitment for about 15 years," Doyle said.

"I think this is the most tight that the labour market has been." 

Selling the province as good workplace 

MacKinnon said as the workforce changes the province is focused on bringing in youth. 

She said they are putting more effort into recruitment and marketing the province as a good place to work, with flexible schedules and a chance to serve local communities. 

The province says it currently has a shortage of a number of workers including social workers, information-technology specialists and administrative staff. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"Folks feel engaged, they're providing support for their neighbours," MacKinnon said. 

"We want to continue to market who we are." 

She said they are attracting young people through social media and with the offer of on-the-job training, and moving people from casual jobs to permanent positions more quickly.

MacKinnon said applicant numbers are up, which is a good sign, but the problem isn't expected to go away soon. 

"We know it's going to continue to be challenging," MacKinnon said. 

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