A shift in labour market has employers on the hop

The Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin (WPB) has launched a new “Employer Resource Corner” at findyourjob.ca with the goal of helping employers connect with new employees. The website aims to help employers in three areas: Finding workers, workforce planning and accessing grant

Last updated on May 03, 23

Posted on Feb 16, 23

4 min read

The Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin (WPB) has launched a new “Employer Resource Corner” at findyourjob.ca with the goal of helping employers connect with new employees.

The website aims to help employers in three areas: Finding workers, workforce planning and accessing grants and bursaries. The idea for the site came from the WPB’s annual local labour market plan.

“There was a lot of talk about employers not having one place to go for all of their recruitment and retention. They don’t know where to find the resources when they’re thinking about recruiting people or retaining people,” said WPB executive director Charlene Hofbauer.

There is a “tight labour market” in the region just now, she noted.

“[There] are a lot of employers looking to hire and not as many people actively unemployed. Some are inactively unemployed so they’re kind of thinking, ‘well, if the right job comes up I’ll go back to it or the right job comes along I will leave my current job and go to it,’” she said.

In January, the unemployment rate in Waterloo Region was six per cent. This is above the national rate, which was five per cent,  and the provincial rate, which was 5.2 per cent.

Julie Gibson is a career and work coach and employer liaison at the Conestoga College Career Centre. She provides help to local residents via Woolwich Community Services every other Monday. Gibson said she often hears that jobseekers are not just looking for a job but one that is a good fit and pays a livable wage.

“If they’re going to spend the time at work, they want to feel like it’s worth putting their time and effort into it. So they’re looking for something back from the employer as well. Coming out of the pandemic there’s been a really big labour market shift or labour market trend, that employees are now looking for a quality of life when it comes to employment and not just a job.”

The cycle of employment has changed from one that gave an advantage to employers to a more even playing field, Gibson said, pointing to the historic period when employers held all the cards.

While things have changed over the years, and particularly since the pandemic struck, the shift has made it hard for employers to recruit and retrain workers.

Adam Lang, a supervisor at the Waterloo-based Burch Landscape Services, said the company is struggling to find employee, as is the rest of the trades industry.

“I don’t want to sound like the old man, but you know [the saying] ‘nobody wants to work anymore.’ I don’t really think that that’s fully true; I think not many people want to do hard labour work anymore. That’s the biggest issue, anything trades is all hard work. It’s all difficult, but it is very rewarding. It’s hard to show people that reward without having them out there and doing it, and nobody wants to get out and do it first,” Lang said.

While the landscaping business slows down in winter, the company tries to keep its core group of employees until the busy season starts. Although both Hofbauer and Gibson pointed to paying a livable wage as one thing employers can do, wages are one of the biggest expenses in the trades, Lang said.

“So increasing the amount that the employees are getting paid, that money has to come from somewhere, obviously. So you have to increase the cost to the consumers.”

According to Hofbauer, many employers in the region struggle to tap into the already existing talent pool, something that Lang sees happening in the trades.

“When it comes to the trades, not everybody is as computer literate and computer savvy. So trying to get in touch with the rest of the talent pool is kind of difficult. Something that we have a lot of issues with is finding the right spots to advertise and how to engage with people that are looking for a job in this industry,” he said.

To combat the challenges, his company is trying to reach the younger generation to promote the trade.

“[We’re] trying to get into the high schools and trying to show that it is a viable career path. One of the things that Landscape Ontario does is they have apprenticeship grants, where people wanting to get into this industry if they’re trying to go for a postsecondary degree through horticulture technician or apprenticeships can almost get their entire university course covered through different bursaries and grants and all that through Landscape Ontario,” he explained.

This is a strategy that other employers in the region have adopted, Hofbuaer said.

“It’s easy to get somebody involved in your organization really early. We’re really encouraging employers to connect to the post-secondary [schools]. And we’re encouraging them to connect to Employment Ontario.…if you’re not connected to those three start there.”

Hofbauer also suggested that employers connect with organizations supporting immigrants, Indigenous youth and people with disabilities.

Gibson agreed, noting that employers need to tap into the influx of newcomers in the region.

“They’re talented, but maybe not Canadian educated or have limited Canadian work experience. I think that’s a huge market we’re not tapping into, and I think we have people with disabilities that are undervalued and overlooked. I think there’s a huge talent pool as well that employers need to tap into because those two populations are highly under-employed at this time.”

In 2022, the unemployment for landed immigrants who had been in Canada for less than five years was 8.2 per cent, with that figure falling for those who had been here for five to 10 years to 5.8 per cent and 5.1 per cent after 10 years. Just 59 per cent of people with disabilities were employed last year.

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