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Go2 developing labour strategy for Kootenays

Tourism industry taking regional approach to long-term problem

B.C.’s tourism industry is taking a region-by-region approach to address a labour shortage that is expected to grow over the next decade.

A tourism labour market research project for the Kootenay Rockies region was started last month by go2, the human resources arm of the B.C. tourism industry.

The study is the second labour market research project by go2. The first study, of the Sea to Sky region, found that labour shortages in the corridor will worsen over the next decade, and that the current shortfall of workers for the tourism labour market in Whistler was conservatively estimated at 3,500.

The mandate of the Kootenay research project is to develop a human resources plan that will include recruitment, retention and training strategies to address the labour market gaps and other human resource challenges in the region.

“We know there are serious labour shortage challenges in this area right now, and for tourism to grow in the region these challenges must be addressed,” said John Leschyson, director of industry human resource development with go2. “With some resort communities in the region in close proximity to Alberta, competition for workers is stiff.”

As with the Sea to Sky study, a steering committee comprised of business leaders, labour and educators will guide the development of a strategic plan. The Kootenay steering committee includes tourism operators, Kootenay Rockies Tourism Association, Ktunaxa Nation, go2, College of the Rockies and Unite Here Local 40 union. Heather Stewart, of Sage Transitions, is chair of the steering committee.

The Sea to Sky study was initiated in October 2005. A five-year strategic plan to address that shortage was completed this fall and should be implemented in January.

The recruitment strategy for the Sea to Sky region states in part: “The corridor can neither rely on the reputation it once enjoyed nor continue to believe that workers will come because they are solely attracted by the lifestyle. Maintaining the status quo in recruiting will no longer serve the business community.” The strategy also states that: “The lack of affordable housing is an issue facing every community in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor.”

Creation of a corridor recruitment team is one of the main recommendations of the Sea to Sky strategy, authored by Bernie Lalor-Morton of Focus Forward Coaching and Consulting. The recruitment team will focus on six key groups: aboriginal people, foreign workers, post-secondary students, immigrants residing in Canada, youth, and other people within Canada.

Like the Sea to Sky project, the Kootenay research project is funded through Services Canada, formerly HRSDC. The Kootenay project is expected to be completed in March 2007.