by Heidi Riley
Francis McGuire, President of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) spoke recently at the Atlantic Canada Aerospace and Defence Association 2022 Sea to Sky Conference.
He spoke about the challenges of recruiting and retaining employees in today’s tight labour market.
“Five years ago, when I first addressed this conference, I said the number one issue is the shortage of people in the labour force. Now the labour crisis is here, and in five years it will be worse. Every country in the world has this problem, and you have to be better than everyone else to solve it.
“The traditional ways of recruiting will not work anymore. If companies sit back and wait for underutilized groups such as immigrants, women, and Indigenous people to come to them, it will not happen. Industry will have to acquire new business skills. They need to visit local community organizations and post-secondary campuses to connect with potential talent.”
Labour force challenge: Demographics
“In the next year, 20,000 people will retire in Atlantic Canada. In the year after that, another 20,000 people will retire. This is a challenge that is not going away, and businesses need to adapt.”
Labour force challenge: Immigration
Francis says the backlog in immigrants entering Canada continues to cause labour force challenges. “The quickest way to hasten the immigration process is by hiring international students who are already in Canada.
“I suggest that companies shift their recruiting efforts to these international students, who are more likely to earn their permanent residency status quicker than other immigrants.
“The Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce PEI Connectors program is spending $380,000 over the next three years to help employers reach out to these students. There is a real opportunity to get involved by giving international students a summer job or a part-time job while in school.”
Labour force challenge: Housing
“Immigration and in-migration are starting to create a huge housing problem. If people can’t find a place to live, the effort you make to attract staff through immigration will not succeed.
“Employers are becoming landlords, particularly in rural areas. Some companies are offering new arrivals a down payment for a house. Others are building housing and are learning to work with community groups to make that happen.”
Labour force challenge: Daycare
“In Quebec, which offers a universal daycare program, women between 26 and 34 have a workforce participation rate of 85 percent, which is the highest rate in the world.
“A report from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council says that offering affordable daycare would free up 14,000 women in this region to get into the labour force.
“Those numbers show that companies that are trying to recruit women should build bridges to daycare facilities, which will be an extremely effective recruitment tool.”
Labour force challenge: Attracting Indigenous talent
Francis says it is also important for industry to visit Indigenous communities to get them on board, sponsor programs to introduce them to the industry, and train them with the skills employers need.