Chamber holds must-attend meeting on Olympics 

Staffing issues at centre of chamber’s Oct. 15 meeting

If there is one issue that is top of mind for most businesses in Whistler right now it is staffing in the Olympic year.

Not only are managers and owners trying to come to grips with a struggling economy, they are searching for a crystal ball to try and figure out whether Olympic aversion or Olympic fever should guide their hiring practices.

Understanding this dilemma Whistler's Chamber of Commerce has put together a panel to address staffing over the next few months and even beyond.

"I want to call the Oct. 15 lunch (conference) a call to action for our businesses," said Chamber president Fiona Famulak.

The session will provide essential information that businesses need to develop their HR plans for the 2009-2010 winter season, including the 2010 Winter Games.

Panel presentations will address the following:

• How will employee motivation be impacted by Olympic activities?

• What are the latest HR trends in the Sea to Sky corridor?

• What are Whistler Blackcomb's and VANOC's HR plans?

• What are creative ways of recruiting for this winter season?

• How can businesses retain employees throughout this winter season?

There will be several panelists from VANOC, go2 (the resource for people in tourism), Whistler Blackcomb and the chamber to provide an overview of possible local, national, and international solutions to businesses' HR challenges

Presentations will be followed by 15 minutes of Q & As.

The Employment Standards Branch, Service Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and SWAP Working Holidays will each host a table to answer any HR related questions as well.

"After transportation, planning for staffing needs in 2010 is the next most important planning exercise for our business," said Famulak.

Thanks to a corridor-specific 2005-06 labour market study it is already known that businesses are chronically short about 2,500 workers each year.

With VANOC and its contractors looking for up to 10,000 paid workers and 25,000 volunteers it is likely the market for employees will be even more squeezed.

"The fact that VANOC and its suppliers need approximately 35,000 individuals (paid and volunteer) to deliver their services means that 35,000 individuals will be soaked up, so there will be a smaller pool of resources available to our businesses," said Famulak.

"We feel at the chamber that that information needs to be clearly presented so that there is no misunderstanding of what their needs are and therefore what the impact on the local community will be."

For that reason Famulak is urging businesses to make a plan for staffing. It may not work to run with a lean model until Games time, as it may be nearly impossible to get staff.

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