The province is spending $71,300 for the City of Penticton to evaluate local employment challenges.
As a measure to improve attraction and retention of skilled labour, a consulting team will be using the money to survey at least 100 employers to better gauge the strengths and weaknesses of hiring practices in the South Okanagan.
“We’re constantly putting employees through training programs, and any money we can get to offset the cost is a bonus,” said Charlene Demers, office manager of Slimline Manufacturing Ltd. where the announcement was made on Oct. 9. “If we can move an employee from one position to another and bring an underling in and grow the company that way, then you have tribal knowledge.”
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said a pitch for a labour market study was made by local representatives at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities in 2013, which was well-received by Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training.
In addition to the survey, and with direction from a steering committee of local stakeholders, the consulting firm will also host two focus groups with small business owners and conduct a number of in-depth interviews with some of the area’s largest employers.
Penticton’s economic development officer Colleen Pennington said the data will then be used to create a strategy to solve some of the problems local employers have.
From this data, a three year strategy will be developed with recommendations and an action plan that will help support local industries and the community. Pennington said the final report is expected to be produced in March and will act as a valuable resource for years.
While the data has yet to be collected, there was speculation that support for spousal employment will be identified as a concern.
“For instance with the new hospital here in Penticton – if we attract a new doctor, maybe a female doctor, her husband will probably be looking for work, and it’s likely he’s a semi-professional or professional also,” Jakubeit said. “Most people survive on two incomes, so becomes a challenge and impediment. Hopefully this strategy helps figure out a solution.”
He said Penticton has a strong manufacturing sector, albeit niche, that has feasible potential for growth.
Dan Ashton, MLA for Penticton said the study will be a blueprint and action plan for employers and industry to follow. He added the manufacturing industry in Penticton ships their product all over the world and there needs to be a plan for the companies to grow and expand in Penticton.
“Okanagan doesn’t have an issue attracting good workers – keeping them is an issue,” said Ashton.