We’ve noticed our classified section has been picking up this spring and many of the display advertisements are help wanted ads.

Some at the paper, and in the community, have commented they’ve never seen so many businesses looking for workers.

But every spring we see an abundance of job postings for the busy summer ahead. They are reflected across various sectors. They include restaurants and retail, building-related and municipal. However, there seems to be a wider variety of candidates being sought this year, including for manufacturing, social services, legal and home services.

Is there a labour shortage?

Employers and employment agencies think there is.

Is it new?

No.

Glancing at a more recent Business Development Bank of Canada (BDO) study, published in September 2018, they concluded this is a Canada-wide problem. It’s here to stay with growth in the nation’s labour force forecast to fall to near zero with no improvement until 2028 or beyond.

This is due in part to an aging population and baby boomers retiring. They are driving demand for goods and services yet there isn’t the workforce to meet their needs.

In that BDC study, 39 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses said they were having difficulty finding workers. It’s affected their ability to grow. Existing staff are being forced to work more, requiring wage increases.

In some cases, employers are having to hire less experienced staff, instead looking for people with the right attitude who will fit into their workplace culture. The onus is then on the boss or senior staff to train them.

There is more pressure than ever on employers to make their workplaces attractive to applicants. That means new practices. In Haliburton County, some of these practices are not traditionally done. For example, workplaces will say they don’t have time to develop HR policies and practices. They don’t have time to streamline their processes. But they’re going to have to.

If local businesses thought it was hard preCOVID, clearly a global pandemic has set us up for a perfect storm.

Some of our unique challenges, such as a lack of public transportation and affordable housing, have continued to make matters worse.

While some locals are keen to enter or re-enter the job market, others are quite happy to wait COVID out if they can afford to do so.

This spring’s challenges also further highlight the perils of a seasonal economy. Let’s face it, nobody is going to rush to Haliburton County for a minimum wage seasonal job when they have to pay high rents if they are fortunate to find a place and also require a costly car to get around.

In this way, the hiring of a County economic development officer is a good first step. We can only hope the successful candidate – if one can be found – can work with employment agencies and employers to make the job market more attractive. We also hope they can look into some of the continuing impediments of transportation and housing.

It requires thinking outside of the box, including considering candidates previously not tapped into, such as disabled people, newcomers to Canada and people 55 and over.

It’s clearly time for change since our age-old practices simply aren’t working anymore

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