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Campbell River businesses, students team up to temporarily solve labour shortages

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect local economies across Canada, a business group and a school district in Campbell River, British Columbia, have entered into a partnership to come up with a creative, short-term solution to the city’s labor shortage.

Starting in February, students in grades 10 through 12 from all three Vancouver Island high schools will have the opportunity to work for 10 weeks at various companies facing recruitment issues.

“Canada has a massive labor shortage across the spectrum, and it’s not going away,” said Mary Ruth Snyder, executive director of the Campbell River and County Chamber of Commerce.

“we have had [around 30] Companies reach out to us and say “Hey, we are interested in having a student.”

Snyder said the program will create temporary jobs in many tourism and hospitality jobs in the region, and companies outside of those industries have expressed a need to fill in the gaps as well.

Students will undergo a two-week ‘overview’ period, during which they will tour hotels, restaurants, and tour operators to learn about the type of business they may be interested in.

Over the past two weeks, the BC Hotel Association has also agreed to provide funding for students to complete industry-standard certifications, such as Serving It Right for liquor service and FoodSafe for handling food safely.

Students will then be matched to a minimum wage setting for the next eight weeks.

Snyder said it would be an opportunity for students to connect with a real workplace, and would allow employers to assess students who might be fit for long-term work in the spring and summer.

“We have this huge need for the next generation to get into the workforce as quickly as possible,” Snyder said. “This is a way to start closing that gap.”

Hospitality jobs are often overlooked by students

Bev Herperger, general manager of Anchor Inn and Suites, said she looks forward to welcoming students to her workplace, and encourages all companies that need to fill positions to demonstrate an interest in the program.

“We will need trained students at the front desk, housekeeping, in our restaurant and in our conference center,” she explained, adding that the jobs are “highly trainable.”

“I think students have long neglected hospitality as a place to focus on a career,” she said. “If we can bring them in at this age, they may find that they want to…make their lifelong ambition.”

Herberger said there are currently no students on staff, and she is a bit nervous because some students may show a lack of “reliability” during the eight-week program, but she still looks forward to a learning experience for all involved.

Carrehi High School is one of three high schools within School District 72 that will participate in a new student recruitment program starting in February. (Google Maps)

The program can inspire career paths

Jeff Lontayao, school district coordinator for Student Options and Opportunities, said the program will help students become certified in various industries and complete the 30-hour work experience credit they need to graduate.

“It [also] It’s a really great opportunity for students to realize “well, I need the subjects in high school to take the next step in this industry” if they are inspired by a particular career path, he added.

Lontayao said there are still some kinks to iron out in the new year when the school district begins the hiring process for both students and businesses, such as figuring out how the work experience will fit into each student’s semester schedule and extracurricular activities.

Meanwhile, Lontayao said a number of school districts outside the district have contacted him for more information and advice on how to start their own programs.

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