The recently released Jasper Labour Market Study is giving Heidi Veluw lots of food for thought.
“Personally, I was surprised by a lot of the information,” said the new executive director at the Jasper Education and Employment Centre (JEEC).
While it’s no surprise that there is not enough local labour supply to meet the demand, the report offers multiple recommendations in several critical areas, including hiring and training, sourcing external labour, company culture, seasonality, cost of living and housing.
For instance, its recommendations suggest a collaborative effort with employers to develop an Employer-Labour Needs Alignment, which would be a comprehensive skills list that is necessary for various jobs.
That, combined with identifying employees’ training needs, developing partnerships with post-secondary institutions and exploring a dual credit system for local students, is intended to bridge the labour gap.
It also recommends that JEEC improves its online offerings, bringing skills and training resources to its website while also improving how its online job board is used. For that, the report suggests that employers could boost their postings during peak seasons by placing them first in a search list as “featured postings.”
As for accessing a larger workforce, the study says that there are clear opportunities for Jasper to better capitalize on sourcing labour from external markets. Current recruitment strategies and recruiting and retaining workers from international labour pools should be enhanced.
It also recommends advocating to the federal government to improve programs and processes for utilizing foreign labour.
Bringing Jasper’s employment issues to the federal level are necessary measures in Veluw’s opinion.
“Some of the bigger issues like affordable housing costs, these are national issues. They're unique to Jasper in some ways because of the population that's attracted, but these are national issues,” she said, adding how we have exaggerated housing prices and not enough availability of affordable housing.
The study says that an analysis on Jasper’s economic outlook shows that the GDP of the community is expected to grow and eventually reach pre-pandemic levels by 2025. Growth will be slower than in previous years, but it will continue an upward trend for the foreseeable future.
“As a result, businesses will grow in Jasper, signalling the importance of addressing existing labour challenges so that they do not hamper future development,” it reads.
“The labour market in Jasper is heavily affected by the nationwide shortage of labour, especially as the major sector of industry in Jasper is tourism, which is labour intensive and still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic. These shortages have affected economic growth, and local employers have reported significant vacancies.”
While the high tourism season is still half a year away, Veluw already understands how those “significant vacancies” can turn Jasper’s employment shortfall into a house of cards scenario.
With all the upper levels relying on the lower ones, it’s difficult not to comprehend the delicate task of managing housing and workforce and everything else.
“I think the biggest thing is, you will have more open jobs in summer than accommodations. A committee like Jasper has to ask itself is, ‘How much can we grow with tourism?’ because we won’t be able to fill these jobs.”
Truthfully, she said, it's already happened. Through JEEC, she has seen lots of eager young people who can hardly feed themselves. With not enough snow at the moment, many people are having their hours cut back as well.
“It's a unique microcosm that way but affordability costs, appropriate housing and food costs are a national problem,” Veluw said.