The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is currently experiencing a vast shortage of skilled labourers needed to keep up with its booming energy and resource sectors.
“We’ve got employers […] regularly saying to us that they’re concerned about the labour pool and they need labour,” says the province’s Premier Kathy Dunderdale. “We know it’s a problem.”
Employers are trying desperately to fill the positions with Canadian workers, but, surprisingly many qualified people are actually leaving the province seeking work elsewhere. Add to this an aging population and it seems to show a sharp disconnect between employer needs and labour market realities.
“We are working hard to find the people we’ll need,” says Rinaldo Stefan, a construction project manager who is currently seeking 1,500 skilled trades workers for a $3-billion project. “For the moment, we are looking in Canada, but the contingency plan will be to go offshore to find people.”
Another big challenge facing employers in the region is the competition from the Alberta oilsands, who employ the same kinds of workers but can usually offer much more attractive salaries and benefits.
Both regions are increasingly looking abroad to seek the labour needed to maintain production levels. The remote location of their resource and oil processing plants does little to attract Canadian workers, but the benefits usually outweigh this drawback, particularly for foreign workers who may not have strong ties to the major urban centres. Yet there is still a stigma placed on employers who hire foreign workers during times of recession when many Canadians are looking for work.
“I’m only really comfortable with temporary workers from outside if I’m convinced that the people who live right here in Newfoundland and Labrador have had every opportunity to fill those positions,” says Joan Burke the provincial Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.
Source: Globe and Mail