Published On: Tuesday, 08 August 2017

Not Enough Cooks in the Kitchen

Not Enough Cooks in the Kitchen

- Glenn Mandziuk is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Region. He can be reached at ceo@totabc.com.

THOMPSON OKANAGAN TOURISM - What is keeping me up at night is not a new story for our industry but it is one that requires, careful thought, immediate attention and creative solutions. Tourism operators have been experiencing labour shortages for many years now, it was something we were warned would occur and something that has and will continue to cause challenges in a wide variety of industry positions. 

Initially shortages were apparent in areas such as housekeeping, front desk and front line serving staff however more recently it is our restaurant kitchens that are being seriously affected. Line cooks, sous chefs, chefs de cuisine, “the Chefs” are missing in our kitchens and that actually means something is not cooking!

In speaking with individuals such as Jonathon Rouse at Okanagan College, there are a number of factors that need to be considered as we work together to solve this alarming situation.

One key for the longer term is training and education which will assist in expanding the pool of talent but that requires employers to work with our various institutes allowing/encouraging employees to enroll in apprentice courses; something that is not happening currently. Classes are being cancelled and student’s seats lost to other faculties, seats the will be harder and harder to get back if we don’t work together to fill them.

More immediately some of our shortages could be addressed by our neighbors to the east, in Alberta, where an abundance of food and beverage staff including chefs are looking for work and more than willing to relocate to our region, however finding a place to live is the number one drawback to this possible solution. Solving high season housing concerns needs our attention and any possible options should not be ruled out.

Some have talked about a program to have seniors host workers for the summer in their homes, options for tiny housing or old school conversions, transportation support from larger centers to smaller ones…there are no “bad ideas” as we work through this process.

Our food and beverage industry is a vital part of the region, our story, our brand and our success. It is not impossible to turn this situation around but it does require innovative thinking for the short term and the collective efforts of strategic planning for the future. If you are looking for employees this summer or anytime year round don't forget our colleagues at go2HR offer a "free" job board where employers can post all of their job listings.

We invite your comments and ideas on helping to keep our kitchens cooking! I don’t know about you but if I didn’t eat out…well…I likely wouldn’t eat much at all!