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Thousands still needed to work during 2010 Games

Finding accommodation for workers in Sea to Sky corridor continues to be an issue


With only 127 days until the 2010 Olympics get under way thousands of jobs still need to be filled for Games times.

Amongst the workers needed are bus drivers, parking lot attendants, cooks, servers, cleaners, retails sales persons, those with specialized skills and the list goes on an on.

The jobs are with the scores of contractors hired to provide services to the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee (VANOC), as it gets ready to host the world. In all about 10,000 workers are needed to put on the Games.

"There are just so many jobs available," said Faye Halls, special projects manager for the Four Host First Nations, which has been hosting job fairs to match up workers and employers. The next job fair is open to everyone at Totem Hall in Squamish from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. today (Oct. 8).

"NBC is in desperate need of drivers," said Halls.

"And Sodexo (food services and facilities management at the athletes' villages), they are really in need of people."

Grant and Hilarie Cousar, owners of Whistler Cooks, won the contract to provide food services at both the Whistler Sliding Centre and Whistler Nordic Centre. That has meant more than doubling their staff to over 200.

"It has been going really quite well, but it is not a simple process to hire a large number like that," said Grant Cousar.

"It takes some time."

They decided to run their own job fair last month to make sure they were reaching out into the community.

"You need to reach out to them a little bit more and sit down and chat with them and so that gave us a larger audience so we can show them what is going on here," said Cousar.

"I'm not going to say this is not a lot of work and lots of days of rubbing my temples. But the whole crew is taking it on and it is absolutely the most exciting thing any of us have ever done."

Most of the jobs available for the Games are short term though some may turn into long-term employment with the larger contractors. Many begin in January and end with the closing of the Olympics Feb. 28. Some will run through the Paralympics as well, which start two weeks after the end of the Olympics.

And while this is a time of high unemployment, because the jobs are short contracts finding employees is challenging.

Sodexo is looking to hire 900 people to handle their contracts in food and beverage provision, and housekeeping and cleaning for the athletes' villages in Vancouver and Whistler.

"Ninety per cent of jobs we are going to fill are going to be filled within B.C.," said Jon Kristjanson, Sodexo's senior vice president of corporate development and marketing.

"Many of the people we are talking to, who are interviewing through job fairs and different contacts that we have... are pretty excited about working for the Games."

Sodexo is partnering with Canadian TV celebrity chef Michael Smith to develop the menu for the villages and Smith will be spending much of the Games in Whistler.

Another challenge in retaining workers is the accommodation factor. Kristjanson said Sodexo has been working with VANOC to secure some accommodation. It has rented a hotel in Vancouver, is converting a Squamish golf club house to accommodation and will be on cruise ships in Squamish brought in by Olympic organizers.

"It is all coming together quite nicely," said Kristjanson.

The Adecco employment services group is still looking for accommodation for those it has been contacted to hire.

"I do have concerns about that and we are still looking at ways we might be able to work around that," said Hilary Predy, regional vice president of Adecco.

"We know that we have to get more people into the Whistler area than we can possibly find accommodation for."

Adecco is looking for 120 people to work for to sell tickets at Olympic venues in Whistler and Vancouver.

The company will also be announcing more available jobs this month with other contractors.

More than 200 employees are also needed for B.C. Transit in Whistler.

"We have to increase shuttle services within the (Sea to Sky) corridor five fold from the first of February to the end of February," said Terry Gainer, human resource manager for Pacific Western Transportation's Olympic program.

"We will be working 24 hours a day and that is to address the fact that there is late night entertainment and events and so on here."

The company needs drivers, cleaners, fuellers and so on. They will have accommodation provided and two meals a day, one of them hot. And since drivers from across the country are being encouraged to apply help will be offered with transportation costs to get to Vancouver.

Impark is still looking for workers as well, with hourly wage jobs ranging between  $12.87 and $16.83.

"We have guaranteed work, guaranteed hours and guaranteed wages," said Chet Gillespie, who is in charge of hiring people to host, manage and supervise the parking lots for 2010 venues in Whistler.

While he is getting applications and working to get back to all who apply Gillespie is also planning on recruiting overseas.

"We are really interested in reaching Australians," he said.