A reputable tourism human resources firm has predicted that Vancouver Island will see a boom in the tourism sector over the next five years - but finding staff may be a difficulty for some businesses.
The tourism human resources association go2hr released a report on Thursday that predicted more than 14,400 jobs will be created in the sector on Vancouver Island by 2020 - but a shortage in labour may begin to take its toll as early as next year.
"Vancouver Island faces specific pressures within our industry," said go2hr CEO Arlene Keis. "The Island is affected by seasonality and retention challenges, particularly in occupations like cooks, housekeeping and front desk staff, and compared to other parts of the province, they will have a higher percentage of jobs opening up due to retirements."
According to the report, Vancouver Island could experience a labour shortage in the area of 15 per cent of the provincial total, with restaurants and hotels being the hardest hit.
As such, the human resources firm encouraged tourism and hospitality businesses on the Island to make recruitment, retention and training a top priority in the coming years.
Co-owner of the Acme Cafe in Nanaimo, Calvin Wallin, said a labour shortage could bottleneck businesses like his, which are finding it necessary to employ less-experienced people and train them internally, in hopes they remain an employee.
"Front of house, for serving, we always get resumes. We've owned this (restaurant) now for four years and that hasn't really changed," he said.
The challenge for Wallin has been to locate skilled and experienced line cooks and sushi chefs. Job postings for those positions seem to be resulting in fewer applications, with suitors having less experience than before.
"It just creates more labour costs, because I have to have one of my veteran cooks, a sushi chef, train this person a lot longer than I would normally," he said.
"I hope the labour shortage is not as extreme as they're predicting."
The report by go2hr estimated that over the period 2011-20, labour shortages in the sector on Vancouver Island could top 2,121 - almost half of which could be centred on the food and beverage sector.
General manager of the Coast Bastion hotel in Nanaimo, David Rooper said the coming labour shortage has been on the radar for tourism related businesses for quite some time now.
He said reports by organizations like go2hr do well to encourage the sector takes the proper steps to prepare.
"As of right now, we don't seem to be having a lot of difficulty in recruiting. Some postings might go a little longer and that also behooves us to start training and promoting within," he said.
The downtown hotel employs approximately 90-100 people directly, but has a wider economic impact as a secondary employer.
"We're a major, obviously, tax base; but the hotel needs a lot of services. It's a big building and it takes a lot to keep it going 24 hours a day," Rooper said. "It's a living and breathing entity that just doesn't go to sleep."
Rooper said he was confident that the province would take an aggressive, proactive approach to skills training. If a labour shortage were to take hold, it would be very concerning for hotel owners, he said.
Tourism Nanaimo CEO Sasha Angus said the organization will have to showcase the quality of opportunities in Nanaimo, in order to offset any negative forces in the availability of labour. "Everyone's going to feel the pinch to a certain degree," he said. "If we can show them what the quality of opportunity is and have housing costs that are half of Victoria's and a third of Vancouver, yet the same quality; I think we've got a leg up."
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