Employers still worried about staffing 

Housing still an issue as WERC, Gibbons Hospitality Group job fairs approach

Housing is not keeping up with the demands of an expanding workforce, according to the 11 th annual Employer Housing Needs Assessment presented by the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) at Monday’s council meeting.

Among other things, the annual survey of businesses found that nearly 30 per cent of employers were unable to meet their staffing needs for the 2007-08 season. All indications are that it will be even tougher this year with less housing available, and the demand for workers increasing by roughly 300 full time employees, from approximately 14,000 last winter. For 2009-2010, the workforce is expected to increase to 14,500 workers.

The survey of employers — 46 per cent responded, representing over 77 per cent of staffing needs — also found that roughly 79 per cent of workers called Whistler home. The other 21 per cent commute from Squamish or Pemberton. When the WHA was created the target was 75 per cent, prompting Councillor Bob Lorriman to wonder if that was high enough given the worker shortage.

“What jumped out at me, in our Whistler 2020 we have a goal of (housing) 75 per cent of the work force in the valley, and even at 79 per cent we are still hearing that we don’t have enough housing,” he said. “I am still wondering if we have to go back and revisit that goal of 75 per cent, it strikes me as a bit low.”

WHA manager Marla Zucht suggested that the goal could be increased to 80 per cent. She also noted that one in three staff currently resides in resident-restricted housing, and that roughly a third more resident restricted beds — 2,200 beds in 615 units — will be created with new housing projects at Rainbow, Cheakamus Crossing and Fitzsimmons Walk.

The survey also found that roughly 17 per cent of local businesses currently provide housing to staff, and 26 per cent of businesses surveyed planned to provide new or additional staff housing for employees.

The survey arrived at a critical time for the resort. Whistler-Blackcomb hosted its annual job fair last weekend to hire roughly 300 new employees, and the Whistler Employee Resource Centre (WERC) is hosting its annual job fair for Chamber of Commerce members Wednesday, Nov. 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Telus Whistler Conference Centre.

As well, the Gibbons Hospitality Group, which manages Buffalo Bill’s, the Longhorn Saloon, Tapley’s, and the Fire Rock Lounge, is holding its own job fair and open house on Nov. 11-12, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Buffalo Bill’s.

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