The local chamber of commerce urges federal and provincial governments to take action to address the ongoing labour shortage.
“We frequently hear from our membership that the most significant operational challenge is access to labour, and while the situation existed prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 has only heightened the crisis,” Greater Vernon Chamber president Krystin Kempton said.
“Many vacancies go unfilled, meaning some businesses have reduced hours or are unable to complete orders. This scenario is particularly common within the manufacturing, agricultural and retail sectors in the North Okanagan.”
Factors behind the gap include lack of affordable childcare, housing costs, an aging population and access to training and education.
Increased costs of renting or buying a home is pricing out employees making it difficult for employers to attract and retain staff.
“While progress has been made by government and non-profits in constructing housing for those at the lower end of the financial spectrum, many individuals and families in the middle-income bracket find it difficult to rent or purchase a home in the current market,” Kempton said.
The chamber proposed recommendations to start discussions:
• A proposed labour study be conducted to determine why people aren’t pursuing employment opportunities and identify what barriers may exist to returning to work.
• Don’t restrict federal and provincial immigration programs to specific sectors, but rather allow local communities to pursue skilled labour/investors based on local needs.
• Focus on skills training, especially among women, Indigenous, people of colour and differently-abled peoples.
• All levels of government should be provided with the tools to encourage the development of housing for middle-income wage earners, whether it’s through planning mechanisms or financial enticements.
• Work with large local employers to subsidize employee designated housing.
• Include “tiny homes” as an appropriate use within subdivision planning.
• Government at all levels provide messaging to existing residents in a community as to the benefits of having diverse housing options available (ie. Multi-family next to single-family).
• Funding for private and non-profit childcare operators to provide care for children under the age of three and care that corresponds with shift or evening work.
• Funding that encourages individuals to pursue early childhood education, and wage subsidies that allow private and non-profit childcare centres to employ staff.
“There is a need for government, employers, labour and communities to come together and determine solutions that allow business and communities to thrive,” Kempton said.