Optimism abounds at job fair 

The mountains will be hiring fewer people and starting them later in the season because of concerns over tourist numbers as the war on terrorism continues.

"It will be a little bit down," Karen Bauckham, recruiting manager at this year’s annual job fair for the mountains, said on until Oct 24.

"And we will be staggering the start dates because of the incident on Sept. 11 and uncertainty."

Despite there being fewer positions available this year hundreds lined up Monday for the first day of the job fair.

"The first people were lined up at 5:30 a.m.," said Bauckham.

The lineups are likely a result of the job fair’s move to later in the year, its condensed hiring period – down to 10 days from two weeks – and the on-going interest by people from all over the world in coming to Whistler and working at a premier ski resort.

There had been concerns the terrorist attacks in the U.S. and general economic uncertainly would keep job-seekers away.

But, said Bauckham: "This industry seems to attract young people, risk takers, and as far as we know nobody cancelled plans to come here because of what happened Sept. 11."

Security and world economics were not on the top of the list of concerns for Ben Watson.

"I left the waves for the snow," said the 20 year old, who left his Australian home to surf some of the best snow in the world.

"I wanted to work at the resort because I love snow," he said. "Travel and security were no problem."

This year the mountains plan to hire 1,000 people out of an expected 2,200 who will get screening interviews. That’s down from the 1,200 hired last year.

The jobs will also be staggered so not all employees will start when the mountains open Nov. 22.

The interview spots were all booked by Pique Newsmagazine’s press time on Wednesday, but job seekers shouldn’t give up hope because the mountains do hire people throughout the season.

At the locals’ job fair earlier this month 160 people were hired out of almost 500 interviewed. That’s down from 285 hired last year.

There are 1,000 people who work year round on the mountains. Another 1,500 return every year to be hired for the season and up to 1,300 are hired every year for the first time. Of those hired seasonally about 600 are foreign nationals.

Whistler’s Chamber of Commerce will be holding its own job fair Oct. 29 and 30. So far there are 15 businesses signed up for the fair, offering close to 157 jobs, but businesses are still signing up.

Last year 475 people got interviews for 263 jobs. All the positions were filled.

Summit Lodge plans to use the fair to look for seasonal staff. General manager Steven Cannizzaro said there are no plans to hire fewer staff this year than last.

While call volume has been down over the last few weeks Cannizzaro said bookings remain strong for the winter.

The Westin Resort and Spa will hold its job fair Nov. 1, from 1 to 7 p.m.

"We are not looking at less positions," said Westin spokeswoman Monica Hayes.

Last year 800 people dropped off resumes or were interviewed for positions at the Westin.

It’s the same story at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, which plans on hiring about 150 staff by mid December.

"It’s business as usual here," said Chantal Smitheram, human resources director for the hotel.

Canadian Snowmobile Adventures general manager Dave Watts was considering hiring three extra guides this season but has decided to be cautious at the outset and hire the same number as last year.

"I’m going to have exactly what I had last year," said Watts.

"The only difference for us is that I’m going to go cautious for us on growth that I was expecting for this year then wait and see what happens."

This year there are many more people from the U.K. and British Columbia applying for ski-season jobs.

"I heard it was a great place to come to," said Chris Rickmansworth of Surrey, England as she left the Whistler-Blackcomb job fair.

"I’ve never skied before so that should be fun and I’ve heard the village is a great place."

But it’s not all roses said 23-year-old Rickmansworth. She’s heard all the good jobs with the mountains have already been taken.

Many job seekers will do any job to get the perks offered by the mountains, which include a dual-mountain ski pass, 50 per cent off food, and staff housing for first year employees.

"I’ll have to take anything so I can get a place to live," she said.

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