Post-Olympic afterglow doesn't warm job seekers 

Soft labour market sees 'incredible talent' peddling resumes throughout corridor

After years of being artificially bolstered by the Winter Games, the labour market in the Sea to Sky corridor is starting to catch up with the rest of the province.

More people are handing out resumes than there are jobs available, say human resource specialists in the area. On top of that, employers are more reluctant to hire since they are unsure what the future economy will look like now that the Olympics are over.

"It is slow," said Galia Ciprut, senior recruiter from Employee Unlimited. "It is definitely not what it was before and during the Olympics. During the Olympics, I have never seen it so busy. We couldn't find enough people."

Ciprut, whose company deals mainly with construction and general positions, said there was a slight demand for jobs after the Games with residual work. But now all projects are on hold and employers are sitting on their hands as they wait to see how the economy unfolds.

She said the tough job market is visible in every industry - from administration, to construction, to accounting. Whistler's labour market is flat, Squamish's is extremely quiet and Pemberton's is almost non-existent.

Meanwhile, the number of talented people looking for jobs in the Sea to Sky corridor is exceptional. Ciprut is seeing 300 to 400 e-mails pour into her inbox every day, which is significantly up from the 100 per day she gets during a good job market.

"There is incredible talent looking for work," said Ciprut. "Every resume is better than the next."

But Ciprut added she is not surprised by the post-Olympic labour market.

Unemployment has been high across the province since the economy faltered a year and a half ago. Even last month, B.C. Stats said the situation remains tough, with B.C.'s unemployment rate sitting at 7.5 per cent in May.

"I knew we were in recovery," said Ciprut. "We knew the world was in a recession and there was going to be a ripple effect. We just didn't feel the full effects of it because we were still somewhat preparing for the Olympics... We were in an artificial bubble."

Her comments were echoed by Tina Strehlke, spokesperson for Training Innovations.

Since the Olympics have ended, Strehlke said Training Innovations employees have seen a record number of people contact them looking for jobs. In March, the career company had 1,100 visitors alone, and in April, they had 995.

Strehlke added that, as a result, she is seeing a lot of people consider self-employment.

Meanwhile, Sabine Bell from Whistler Personnel Solutions said the soft labour market is actually better than what she was expecting during the post-Olympic era.

"Yes, it is post-Olympics, but it is also our typical spring season," explained Bell. "Employers will hold off until things pick up for the summer. That is not really that unusual for our town. It may be more extreme because employers are still worried as to what is going to come down the pipe, but I don't think that is all that unusual."

Bell is seeing a major shuffle going on within Whistler's labour sector and many senior management-type resumes are landing on her desk.

"I think for the next while there will be quite a few great, qualified candidates out there, but I believe shortly after that, maybe next winter, that pool is going to dry up," she said.

Meanwhile, despite the short-term labour crunch Fiona Famulak, president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, warned that Whistler will likely face a labour shortfall over the next 10 years.

"The current conditions where supply is greater than demand is a short-term reality," she said. "We know there is a chronic shortfall of labour across B.C. over the long term."

Her comments fall in line with warnings from the provincial government, which says that by 2018 demand for workers in B.C. will exceed the labour supply by 80,000 people. This chronic shortfall is believed to stem from an aging demographic, including the baby boomer generation that will retire over the next decade.

Famulak said the chamber is working with the province to get ahead of the problem.

"When we do come back into a condition where demand exceeds supply, we will have solutions ready for our membership base," she said.


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