Jan 28, 2020 by James Jackson Waterloo Region Record
WATERLOO REGION — When Patrick Desaulniers hears employers in Waterloo Region and Wellington County are having a tough time finding the right employees, he gets a little annoyed.
The 37-year-old Guelph resident worked in construction for six years and graduated from the construction and maintenance electrician program at Herzing College, but he’s still had trouble landing a full-time, permanent job in the trades.
“It’s honestly depressing and frustrating to be in this situation,” he said after reading a story in The Record earlier this month about a Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin survey that found the majority of employers are having a hard time filling vacancies.
“The most difficult part is finding a sincere employer that is willing to take a chance on a new person and potentially sign them.”
The planning board survey found about 65 per cent of 542 employers surveyed last year had positions that were difficult to fill during the previous 12 months.
The top five barriers cited by employers were: not enough applicants (54 per cent); lack of qualifications (48 per cent); lack of motivation/attitude (44 per cent); lack of work experience (39 per cent); and lack of technical skills (36 per cent). Employers could select multiple reasons for their response.
But Desaulniers said based on his experience working in the trades there seems to be a reluctance to train new or inexperienced apprentices.
He’s currently working part time at a friend’s promotions and trophy shop in Etobicoke for $16 an hour to help make ends meet.
“I’m hoping I’ll have more luck soon,” he said.
Charlene Hofbauer, the planning board’s chief executive officer, said she’s heard similar complaints from other job seekers.
“We try to give job seekers an idea that those (factors) aren’t the rule,” she said. “Some industries have a lot of options and yes, may not pay what you’re looking for … because they know they can fill the job.”
In a separate planning board survey of workers in the region from 2019, the 177 respondents said some of the top factors for not finding a job were: a lack of job postings in their chosen field or geographic area, a need to improve their own education or training, and a lack of jobs with a desirable rate of pay.
The number of hours available can also vary depending on the job. Retail work tends to offer more part-time shifts, Hofbauer said, while jobs such as construction have more full-time hours but usually only seasonally.
Of the 14,249 workers hired in 2018, about 5,300 were for full-time, permanent positions, according to the employer survey.
Hofbauer said the perception that many employers are unwilling to train is untrue for the 542 local employers surveyed — 88 per cent said they provided training to employees, but a third of those willing to train also admitted there were barriers in providing that training, mainly cost and time.
And only 19 per cent offered apprenticeship training, down from 24 per cent a year earlier.
One of those companies willing to train is Arcadian Projects, a multi-trade contractor that specializes in renewable energy projects in Baden.
President Luke Shantz said one of the best ways for local companies to grow and succeed is by finding talented local employees, training them, paying a competitive wage and offering a pension and benefits.
“Every year we take on new, young people and put them into the construction scene and move them from trade to trade,” he said. “You make sure it’s a fit for them and we give them a year to feel it out, and after a year we offer them any apprenticeship they want.”
Yet younger workers are also very different from the generations that came before them, according to David Towler, and employers need to adjust.
Towler is president of Waterloo-based Creative Organizational Design, which provides customized employee training services for corporations around the world, including Kellogg’s, Fuji Film, Electrohome, Maple Leaf and more. [Correction: COD does not provide training. COD is Canada’s largest independent provider of skills and aptitude assessments for employee screening, promotion and development and carries over 2000 titles.]
His clients all say they’re having the same problems finding and retaining employees.
“I feel for these applicants, I was there once too,” Towler said. “I’m hearing the same thing from people in Vancouver, Texas, Los Angeles and New York. It seems to be an international issue.”
He said the relationship employees have with their jobs has changed over the past decade or two, particularly among workers in their 20s and 30s that entered the workforce in the years leading up to — or directly following — the economic crash in 2008.
“Part of the issue is you’ve got a group of people who don’t expect to have a long-term career,” he said. Benefits and pensions are often no longer enough motivation, especially if workers think they won’t be there long enough to enjoy those perks due to layoffs or finding a better job down the line.
“The plus side is they’re workaholics, and they’re loyal, and there are all kinds of great things they bring to the workforce,” Towler said. “You’d better hire them effectively.”
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