Year-round employment taking several forms 

Employers throughout Whistler are thinking up innovative ways to retain seasonal workers year-round.

And last week Derek Gagne, owner of Whistler-based Talent Edge Solutions, launched a new service that connects employers with seasonal employees throughout the province.

The service, entitled Work to Play, is essentially a database of seasonal workers that employers can use.

“It is one of those things that employers have been talking about for a long time but really do not have the resources to actually put hours into it and make something happen,” explained Gagne.

Gagne compared the service to a dating website, where employees could upload their profile for free and then employers could search through the database to find ideal workers. Employers would only be charged a fee for hiring someone. Hiring a front-line employee costs $350, hiring a supervisor or manager costs $550.

“Basically the employer could tell us, ‘We are looking for a retail clerk from May to September,’” explained Gagne.

“Then we would go into our system and look at all the people who have said, ‘I am interested in working in Whistler, and I am interested in these periods of time.’”

The aim of the service is to line up work for workers once the current season ends. For example, a winter worker in Whistler could get in touch with employers at a summer resort in Tofino.

Traditionally, a large number of workers are laid off in Whistler every spring. This is changing though, with the rising popularity of mountain biking and the summer season in Whistler.

Louise Lundy, president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has noticed that employers are retaining staff throughout the year.

“Anecdotally, what we have definitely seen over the last year in particular, the summers are getting busier, probably the mountain bike park is a huge part of that, attracting people from all over the world who are into mountain biking vacations,” said Lundy.

“We actually found employers were saying last summer that they almost had a more difficult time finding employees in the summer than they do in the winter, because they attract employees in the winter because of the skiing, but it is much harder in the summer.”

Joel Chevalier, director of employee experience at Whistler-Blackcomb, said his company typically lays off 600 to 700 seasonal workers and 1,000 returning seasonal staff every year, though that number is changing as well.

“We are seeing less and less of it happening with projects and programs like the bike park going on, and construction projects like the Peak to Peak gong on,” said Cheavlier.

“It still happens, but we are seeing less and less of it.”

He added that Whistler-Blackcomb already partners with several local businesses, like the Whistler Golf Course. For example, top chefs at Whistler-Blackcomb will work for the golf course in the summer, keeping those skilled people fully employed throughout the year.

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