Windsor employers struggle to fill jobs, despite high unemployment rate

Despite Windsor's long-standing high rate of unemployment, some companies still struggle to fill jobs.
Sam Farhat, co-owner of Green Processing Inc., is always looking for workers to fill vacancies at his recycling and packaging plant. (Sonya Varma/CBC)

It seemed like an easy sell; a sales and marketing position, with bonuses pushing the salary up to six figures, annually. But Greening Processing Inc. had the job open for more than six months and no local takers.

Co-owner Sam Farhat says in the end, the job went to a Michigan candidate. Even after canvassing business contacts, Farhat and his partner couldn't find a Windsor hire. 

"We didn't have any luck and it was surprising because you figure with such a high unemployment rate that any job you post there's going to be a lineup at the door waiting, but that's just not the case," he said.

We have constant turnover and constant difficulty in hiring- Sam Farhat

Farhat and his partner, Jeremy Berger, started Green Processing Inc. about seven years ago and during that time, Windsor's unemployment was at or close to the top in Canada. With stats like that, Farhat never expected filling jobs at his recycling and packaging plant would be an issue.

"It's been a world of trouble," Farhat said. "We have constant turnover and constant difficulty in hiring."

The company has regular openings on the plant floor. Farhat says they offer a safe environment, consistent work and competitive pay, even bonuses twice a year, but it hasn't been incentive enough to attract and keep most workers. 

"Maybe for every two or three people we hire, one stays on long-term. And we don't find that it's any fault of ours. We have people who don't show up for work on time, who just don't show up, and we're calling them after the fact and we can't find them. I wish I could explain it," he said.

Job seekers light on experience, heavy in demands

Kyle Devine, who runs Devine Personel, a staffing and recruiting company in downtown Windsor, has a few theories.

"A lot of individuals don't want to exert the effort for employment,"  Devine said.

Kyle Devine owns staffing and employment company Devine Personnel.

Hundreds of resumes come across Devine's desk every week. He says most of the applicants are in their early twenties. They live at home or with a friend and have limited access to a vehicle. They want a job, but on their conditions.

"I do have plenty of people who come through and say, 'I only want to work day shift, I only want to work between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.,'" Devine said. "And [they say], 'I don't want to work too late on Fridays and I don't want to get up too early on Mondays.'"

He also points to a lack of soft skills, an employee's ability to deal with issues at work. People would rather quit a job with no employment elsewhere than bring a concern to a supervisor, Devine says.

"Something as simple as, 'I don't like the way my work station is set up' or 'I have a conflict with another employee' [means] they would quit and lose their employment altogether than address these issues," he said.

Shortage of skilled workers

Devine says there are some legitimate barriers to employment, such as transit. He says Windsor bus routes are too infrequent and limited. There's also a skills gap in Windsor, Devine says.

That's something Tanya Antoniw has been watching for some time. Antoniw is the executive director of Workforce Windsor-Essex.

The agency recently surveyed 106 businesses on hiring. Eighty-nine per cent reported it had successfully filled positions in the last year.

But, Antoniw says jobs that require skilled workers, like welders, machinists and engineers, remain difficult to fill.