Okanagan Business Leaders Develop Skilled Labour Strategy

March 22, 2016

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PENTICTON – South Okanagan business leaders gathered recently in Penticton to share ideas on how to attract and retain workers at a summit where the findings of a regional labour market strategy were released to the community.

The City of Penticton received $71,300 from the Province’s Community and Employer Partnership fund to research emerging labour market trends and to develop a three year strategy to help local businesses attract and retain skilled workers.

“The Skilled Labour Market Summit is a great opportunity for South Okanagan business leaders to come together and share their experience and ideas on how to attract skilled workers to our region,” says Dan Ashton, MLA for Penticton. “I look forward to the prioritized goals identified in the labour market study that will help our local businesses train and attract the talent they need to grow and thrive.”

The strategy builds on the findings of a 2014 Labour Market Outlook funded by the Province that identified a labour shortage in the South Okanagan and need for increased training capacity, especially in the trades. It found that South Okanagan employers estimate their hiring needs will grow by 22% by 2020, especially for in-demand jobs like general farm workers, computer programmers and interactive media developers, cooks, technical sales specialists, user support technicians and retail sales.

Recommendations to address this include: developing stronger connections between local training programs and the business community to ensure alignment between training and employer needs, as well as creating an economic development strategy and regional training calendar.

The summit builds on ongoing work between the City of Penticton and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour to support skills training and labour market development in the region. Attendees were asked to prioritize key goals identified in the labour market strategy and identify local champions to move them forward. The summit also included a panel discussion with successful local business owners and operators who shared their experiences in recruiting, training and retaining staff, as well as other positive workplace strategies. The final labour market strategy will be available online in April at: http://www.penticton.ca/

Labour Market Partnerships are a component of the Employment Program of BC’s (EPBC) Community and Employer Partnerships fund for projects that share labour market information and increase employability throughout the province. They were introduced with the EPBC in April 2012. Labour Market Partnerships help local employers, employee and employer associations, and communities develop ways to deal with worker shortages or changes in the job market so they can prepare for the future.

The Community and Employer Partnerships program is featured in B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint and provides more support to people who are struggling to gain a foothold in the job market. It helps build stronger partnerships with industry and labour to connect British Columbians with classroom and on-the-job training, while making it easier for employers to hire the skilled workers they need – when and where they need them.

To date, more than 900 job seekers have benefited from work experience and 200 projects have been funded throughout the province.

According to the 2014 Growing in the Okanagan 2020 Labour Market Outlook:

  • More than 62% of South Okanagan employers hire seasonal workers.
  • In 2011, 19% of the working population in the South Okanagan was between the ages of 55 to 64; 24.6% were between the ages of 45 to 54 years.
  • The Let’s Talk Jobs study reports that 20% of new immigrants in the SOS region are unemployed.
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