Island businesses struggle to find employees during pandemic
VICTORIA -- For many businesses in Greater Victoria, the biggest problem during the pandemic has been a lack of customers. But for others, a new pandemic problem is beginning to boil to the surface, a shortage of staff.
“We’re looking for employees,” said Andrew Underdown, a manager at Langford construction company Tower Fence.
He’s looking to hire 20 of them to be exact. The problem is, Tower Fence can’t find anyone.
“We believe the Federal Government has had an impact on the economy in a negative way, handing out this money,” said Underdown.
He’s referring to CERB (the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit) – which is now over, but the Federal Government has expanded eligibility for employment insurance.
“You know most people in Victoria have a job,” said Mark Colgate, a professor at the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria. “Those who don’t have a job, maybe there’s less incentive for them to go out there and get a job than maybe there was pre-pandemic.”
Victoria currently has the second lowest unemployment rate in B.C., at 5.8 per cent. Kelowna has the lowest at roughly 4.5 per cent.
On the retail side, things aren’t any better in the South Island.
“We have never had a sufficient level of staff that allows us to open seven days a week (during the pandemic),” said Bob Ianson, owner of Heirloom Linens in the Broadmead Shopping Centre in Saanich.
Heirloom Linens has pivoted all it’s advertising budget towards new ads. Instead of advertising products, they are now trying to recruit new staff.
“I could handle about four people right now,” said Ianson. “I need a full-time internet person for five days a week because our internet business has exploded, and that’s been a challenge staying on top of that.”
“I’m also looking for full time and part time for the store,” he said.
So far, the bedding store has had no luck.
“It’s very difficult to weed through and find out who actually is looking for long term employment and who is just puddle jumping from one job to the next,” said Jodi Tucker, director of operations with Victoria Drain Service.
Victoria Drain Service says they are looking to hire up to 10 people, anywhere from entry level positions all the way up to more specialized roles.
“There just isn’t anyone in our area who comes to us with the proper certifications, knowledge or background to be able to do that,” said Tucker.
According to Mark Colgate, this predicament has both positive and negative repercussions.
“This could lead to higher wages,” said Colgate. “Which ultimately means the customer is going to have to pay for that as well.”
It’s a problem that could end up hitting consumers right in the bank account.