Hundreds of applicants to fill 200 jobs 

Whistler businesses cautious about hiring; many positions filled by returning employees

The most glaring issue to come out of this year’s job fairs was that there are hundreds more people than last year arriving for interviews, but not as many jobs for them to work in.

Marta Sutherland, manager of Whistler Community Services Employment Centre, said 800 people went for interviews at the employment centre’s job fair last week, but there was only "about 200" jobs available.

"This year at the job fair we had close to 800 people and usually we get about 450," said Sutherland. "And that’s partly a result of the hiring practices of the mountain (Whistler-Blackcomb), which have been conservative this year.

"They’re going to do another re-hire, but that doesn’t help the kids that are hanging around waiting and have been told ‘no, not right now’."

There are several views as to why there were so many people seeking jobs this year and far fewer positions. Some believe there are more people staying in their jobs in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, others have speculated there might be fewer jobs as employers keep minimal staff until they see signs business is improving. Then there are always the ongoing issues of administration that can result in a lot of disorganization.

"I’m sure it’s a mixture of those factors and because everybody comes here at the same time," said Sutherland. "There were a lot of companies I had contacted to see if they wanted to be part of the job fair and they said ‘no, not this year because we have a lot of returning staff’. So there is a lot of companies with a lot of returning staff.

"However, there is at least one hotel that I know of that is having trouble getting staffing so I have no explanation for that. I can’t believe there are any hotels in town (having trouble finding people). These are for the less glamorous jobs of course, but nonetheless if they’ve got any kind of benefits to the job then the kids should be all over those jobs."

Food bank co-ordinator Sandra McCarthy sees a lot of new people at this time of year and she said businesses were being conservative with their hiring, but the situation was not out of control.

"It’s not over the top and I really believe it’s because the mountain brings people in later now," said McCarthy. "I think everybody’s watching the bottom line but I don’t see (the demand) down here at the food bank compared to three years ago when we had way more."

But Whistler consultant Ralph Forsyth, who works with a lot of young people and has run several community events, said the hiring process some businesses are following might prove to be flawed.

"People are keeping their hiring levels low and not incurring that training cost and the cost of hiring an employee initially; they’re waiting until it is busy," said Forsyth. "The business owners are reacting, which I don’t think is a great idea because then you’re going to have to dig pretty deep into the talent pool to get skilled people. Which means that service is going to go down and if we look at this value proposition (which Tourism Whistler recently launched) the fundamental ingredient to that isn’t just discounting, it’s adding value service.

"It doesn’t cost a cent to provide great service, you just have to hire people. "If we want to keep attracting talent to this place, you’re going to have to hire and float them a few bucks even though everyone’s margins are tight.

"You’re going to have to spend the time now on training them so that they’re skilled when you’ve got them," he said "instead of just hiring them and cutting them loose or not hiring them at all and then waiting until Christmas when you’re smoking busy."


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