Lisa VanderVelde/Morning Star Chance Temple is struggling to find workers for the Riverfront Pub in Grindrod and isn’t the only one as help wanted signs are popping up throughout the North Okanagan.

Labour shortage strikes region

A shortage of workers has forced Chance Temple to take drastic action.

Hours are cut back at Grindrod’s Riverfront Pub and the menu has been reduced.

“We can’t do it without staff,” said owner Temple.

“I’ve been picking up a few shifts in the kitchen so our guys (existing employees) don’t burn out and have days off.”

Temple isn’t alone when it comes to North Okanagan businesses struggling to recruit new workers.

“We could have missed economic opportunities if our businesses can’t find labour,” said Kevin Poole, Vernon’s economic development manager.

“We are hearing from multiple sectors of our economy that this is a challenge.”

At Community Futures’ Vernon office, the plight facing businesses is evident.

“There are more job postings on our (jobs) board than I’ve seen in years,” said Kim Lauritsen, programs and operations manager.

The postings include 24 for administration, 36 for trades and transportation, 60 for sales and 10 for health.

“We’ve hit a cycle where the supply side is not meeting the demand side,” said Lauritsen, adding that part of the reason for the current situation is a 74 per cent employment rate.

“Employers have to be competitive and market to employees about what they offer.”

Temple has been advertising aggressively for workers for four months and he received eight applications for a cook.

“Some of them didn’t show up for the interviews and some were from Vancouver and Ontario,” he said, adding that he’s not sure why he’s being overlooked when he pays above minimum wage and offers benefits.

Community Futures is trying to help employers and those seeking work by offering workshops, including turning retail jobs into careers and one focused at Generation Y.

Promoting education is also critical.

“We need to take time to upskill our youth for retention,” said Lauritsen.

Through senior government assistance, wage subsidies can be available for employers.

But even with all of that, Lauritsen says taking a job will depend on whether an individual can find an affordable place to live and someone to look after their children.

The City of Vernon is also looking at ways to address the situation.

“We are working on a website that can act as a resources for people looking to move to Vernon,” said Poole.

“We are also bringing a proposed ambassador program to council in September, which focuses on welcoming and connecting newcomers to Vernon.”

In the mean time, Grindrod’s Riverfront Pub will continue to pursue staff but Temple admits he’s concerned.

“We have great customers, great staff, the ones that we have, and a respected business but we are literally crippled by this,” he said.