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Whistler employers having little trouble recruiting

Whistler Blackcomb stresses need to be proactive

It's an employers' market in Whistler.

That's the impression you get from talking to various businesses that say they're having little trouble attracting employees for the upcoming winter season.

The key, said Whistler Blackcomb recruiting manager Karen Bauckham, is getting on your recruiting efforts early.

"We do a lot of pre-hiring now," she said. "Throughout the spring and summer, and across Canada, we do different recruiting initiatives, so we hire in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, Chile, Prague, we go across Canada.

"We went to Toronto and Montreal, and we did a local's fair here in September and then the November one wraps it all up. Hopefully when we're out of this one, we'll have all the seasonal people we need for winter operations."

Whistler Blackcomb held job fairs at the Blackcomb Lodge November 4 and 5, looking to hire people as part-time ski instructors, food and beverage, front of house and back of house, as well as rental and repair technicians.

The company had 712 interviews booked already and then another 500 people walked in looking for work. Some 425 people were hired on those days alone.

"We sorted through approximately 1,200 applications and we invited just over 700 applicants, so we invited about 750 applications to fill about 500 positions," Bauckham said.

"We're slowly getting a stronger economy, there are some industries out there that are hiring.

"The demographics continue to shrink for us. That age group we typically go out and recruit, there's not as many Gen Y's coming into the workforce, so that has an impact.

"But I think so far, we're looking like we're pretty on par with last year, we've had some pretty good indicators."

Pan Pacific, meanwhile, isn't holding a job fair in Whistler because it just doesn't need to.

Jim Douglas, the general manager of Pan Pacific's two Whistler properties, said the hotels have received a "nice volume" of potential candidates for the winter season and that he does not foresee a shortage.

"We have people coming in every day with resumes," he said. "The last couple of years I don't think have been as big a challenge as the first two years I was here. I arrived in the summer of '06, and in '06 and '07 we had challenges, now we don't. Some of that might have to do with the work we put into this issue as a community."

Asked why challenges existed in 2006 and 2007, Douglas said it could have had to do with a number of factors, such as a lack of affordable housing or a very robust economy, which at that time allowed people to jump from one job to the next with little concern.

"I would imagine it's a combination," he said. "Honestly it's probably a reflection of the good work government and business organizations have done the last few years, given the challenges we had for a period of time."

Meanwhile Garfinkel's also won't be holding a job fair this year. Last year's job fair brought about 300 applicants for 20 or so positions. It just wasn't necessary this year, said general manager Dominic Boucher.

"I've got too much staff," he said. "I've got a really good team right now, I've got people already waiting to work, so no, I've got no job fair this year."

The reason people are drawn to work for Garfinkel's, he said, is that most of the people applying are twenty-somethings coming to Whistler for their first season and they just want to party.

"You can work at the grocery store or work in a party environment and have a chance to have some fun and make money at the same time," he said.

Joey Gibbons of the Gibbons Hospitality Group, which owns venues including the Longhorn Saloon, Buffalo Bill's and Tapley's, said his company has received about 600 applications for 250 positions around Whistler, with people dropping off resumes on a regular basis.

He added his businesses don't have trouble hiring people because applicants can find a place to live when they couldn't before.

"Because of the big ramp up on employee housing, we just put a massive ramp up on that, there's been a lot more places for people," he said. "Around 2008, there was nowhere for people to live. Because there was nowhere, there wasn't people to work in the businesses, and then post-Olympics, it became more affordable."