Today’s service, tourism and retail sector can accommodate virtually any schedule in Kamloops, with business hours spanning anywhere from 12 to 24 hours a day.
But that could soon be a thing of the past as a surge in job openings collides with a waning workforce.
“You and I as consumers down the road may not have the luxury of a nine to nine opening in virtually all of our retail stores,” said Bryce Herman, a Kamloops hospitality consultant.
B.C. is expected to be short approximately 14,000 workers in the service and tourism industry starting as soon as next year, according to the provincial government’s tourism marketing agent go2hr.
Over the past four years or so, employers have had a relatively painless time recruiting workers as the economic drop caused retirees to return to the workforce.
But that tide is turning, said Herman.
“Guaranteed it is going to get worse long before it ever gets better,” he said. “All we have to do is look at the aging demographic.”
According to go2hr, more than 100,000 job openings are expected by 2020 just as the tourism sector struggles to find workers.
The worst of it is expected to hit the food and beverage, accommodation, recreation and entertainment sectors, which could lead to a hampering of economic expansion as companies choose not to build new hotels, said Lana Denoni, chair of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C.
“You look at, do we have enough people to run them and service them?” she said.
And the challenge isn’t the lower wages some may think it is, said Denoni.
“I think that’s a bit of a misnomer,” she said. “There’s certainly some entry level jobs, but there’s also in hotels and resort and restaurants some very good paying jobs. With all sorts of things, you pay your dues and you advance.”
Nonetheless, a wave of movement towards northern industrial jobs is being felt, said Sun Peaks Tourism president Christopher Nicolson.
Each region faces specific kinds of pressures. The Thompson Okanagan’s heavy reliance on seasonal industries is its Achilles heel, said Arlene Keis, CEO of go2hr.
Sun Peaks Resort is familiar with that particular challenge.
“It’s difficult for people from say, Saskatchewan of other parts of B.C., to pick up and move to an area for three to four months for work and then head back,” said Nicolson.
That’s led the village’s 83 businesses to hone recruitment strategies.
Traditional options already include temporary migrant staff — that oft seen Australian staffer — and job fairs, which this year happens on Oct. 12 in Sun Peaks.
They’ve also entertained innovative solutions like job sharing.
Rocky Mountaineer and Sun Peaks Resort have been able to offer year-long employment by agreeing to hire each other’s workers when their respective seasons end.
Herman believes the strategy will catch on as businesses see the benefits.
“Once there’s a mutual respect between both parties, more of that can take place.”
But there’s no magic bullet to the problem, he said. Future options may also include more flexible schedules for employees with other commitments and increasing migrant workers.
That’s a major focus of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C., said Denoni.
“If we can’t fill positions from within our country, hopefully . . . we can have foreign workers come in to fill some positions until such time as we can fill them ourselves. We’re looking to the government to hopefully assist in those programs.”