Post-pandemic labour shortage a two-way street


Kirk Winter Headshot

By Kirk Winter

Kirk is a retired high school history teacher and coach who has had a lifelong interest in politics at all levels. Since retiring, Kirk has spent the last three years doing freelance writing of all kinds for various platforms. Kirk can often be found sitting in the press gallery at City Hall observing and reporting on the vagaries of local government.

Over 90 per cent of some small business owners surveyed by the Advocate earlier this past summer worry about finding adequate labour, skilled and unskilled, to meet their customers’ needs.

Kirk Winter is a retired high school history teacher living in Lindsay who covers politics, education and sometimes business stories for the Advocate.

A brief survey of some small business owners in Kawartha Lakes done early in the summer season by the Advocate indicates that in all but one area of their operations, local entrepreneurs are hopeful about the future.

The primary area of concern expressed by over 90 per cent of them indicated a worry about finding adequate labour, skilled and unskilled, to meet their customers’ needs.

Some businesses are turning away work because they do not have adequate staffing. Some in the food services industry are reducing their hours to reflect the number of paid staff they can attract to work every day. Other small businesses are asking family to fill in the holes in the work schedules, often sparking stress at home.

When asked where their potential staff has gone, several small business owners blame the pandemic for chasing away early retirees. Others blame the federal government for offering excessive benefits to the unemployed. One suggested that the legalization of marijuana has removed motivation for many to seek gainful employment. A couple of more insightful employers, however, suggested the problem might be the jobs themselves. Are largely seasonal part-time positions with no benefits or job security what people want? The living wage in Kawartha Lakes is estimated to be $19.05 an hour – and that assumes two people working full time at that rate.

One long-time Kawartha Lakes business owner, who asked for anonymity because they were not sanctioned by any of the Downtown BIAs to speak on their behalf, told the Advocate small businesspeople need to rethink how they attract labour, how they train labour and how they ensure the workplace is safe enough and fiscally rewarding enough to keep folks interested in coming to work every day.

“My children are my sounding board,” the individual said. “If they are not attracted by what I propose, likely none of their peers are. We need to do this a whole different way because I think these shortages with an aging population and fewer high school students are here to stay.”

Local school bus providers, who have been hammered by drivers quitting in droves during and after the pandemic, are now offering $500 signing bonuses, and an equal amount of money for lasting the whole school year.

A local resort in need of kitchen and cleaning staff has completely rethought their interview process. Potential employees are asked to come to the lodge, put in a full day of paid work, and then and only then if they like the job and the work assignments are they asked to sit for an interview.

The reality that many employers refuse to recognize is that the post-pandemic labour market is a sellers’ market, and until more bosses realize this and rethink what they are offering potential employees, key positions may never be filled.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.