Melissa Valentini of Up Right Roofing Inc. plans to attend a job fair in Haliburton April 20 in hopes of finding staff for the busy summer ahead and beyond.

In their fourth year of business, co-owner Valentini said a shortage of affordable housing has impacted their workforce and they are short staff.

She said they are not looking for high school students at the fair – to be held at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS) – but skilled workers.

“The reason I am going is a shot in the dark that we might scoop up somebody that is employed here already,” she said.

Valentini added the housing crisis is not a new thing, but her business has never felt it so acutely before.

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“For us this year, it our biggest obstacle. The housing crisis is stunting the growth of my business. I could run two crews easily, but we don’t have the manpower. It’s not that I don’t have the work. I don’t have the manpower.”

Valentini said other challenges include the high cost of living, not just for housing but gas.

“People are needing a lot more money. They need their income to be higher to live. So, we’re having to be looking at our offering. Maybe we need to be offering more. What we’re offering isn’t bringing people in. We posted for general labour, no experience at $20 an hour, and I didn’t get one inquiry.”

Pushing for resumes

Haliburton County students and members of the general public are being encouraged to polish their resumes in time for the Haliburton County Home Builders Association’s (HCHBA) job fair next Wednesday.

The event was last held in 2019, pre-COVID, but is returning to the school gym.

Aggie Tose, executive officer at the HCHBA, said while the event will be similar to ones in the past, “this time, we’re really pushing for resumes. Before, our drive was careers. What careers are in the County? Right now, we want to push that there are hundreds of employers looking for people and we really need the resumes. We really need people that want to work.”

Shortage of affordable housing barrier to hiring

Tose said local grocery and hardware stores, among others, want people hired and trained before the Victoria Day long weekend, which is May 20-23 this year, so time is of the essence.

Already, she said they have had a number of businesses register, from hardware stores to an optician, to a roofing business and carpentry.

“So, it’s a really wide range of people that are looking. I’m hoping we have a lot of options for both the students and the public to come and have a look, and meet people and put a face to a name.”

High schoolers not working

Many people have commented that they are surprised that high school students are not seeking work as they have in the past.

Tose said she spoke with some high schoolers last spring and they told her it was because they had been working parttime jobs but had qualified for government COVID payments so opted to stay home instead.

She said in her 30 years working with GJ Burtch Construction, last year was the first summer the business did not get any resumes for summer work.

Tose acknowledged for those not able to live at home with their parents, the Highlands’ shortage of affordable housing is a major barrier.

She hopes the new student residence planned for Haliburton School of Art and Design may help with future summer housing for employees.

“It will be huge no matter which way we get it, or however they use it because there will be a list of people waiting to get in. Like that baseball movie, Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come, They will. We are so desperate for housing up here.”

Back to the job fair and Tose said, “I’m really hoping it will give the employers a chance to meet people face-to-face and hopefully have a useful conversation. But I really want to push that we would like people to come expecting to talk to an employer.”

Hospitality worries about summer

Andy Oh of the Maple Ave Tap and Grill has advertised for numerous positions at his downtown Haliburton eatery.

Oh said he has had to go to five days a week, due to staff shortages, but would prefer to open six to seven days.

“Too hard. I don’t get what I expect,” Oh said of inquiries or resumes.

To register for the job fair as an employer, for free, call 705-457-6901, or email info@ hchba.ca

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