Saskatchewan doughnut shop desperate for workers in oil patch boom town

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Daily Brew

As unemployed workers all over North America struggle to find a job, at least one Saskatchewan employer appears to be experiencing the problem in reverse.

CBC News reports that a Tim Hortons owner in Estevan, the province's eighth-largest city, can't seem to find enough staff to fill his roster.

Dennis Willows blames the dearth of skilled service industry employees on competition from the nearby oil patch in Alberta.

"We're in a pretty desperate situation, in Estevan, and have been for the last couple of years now," he told the news network.

"We just don't have the workers in Canada," Willows said. "You would think ... people would be moving out here. But we don't see a lot of them."

Willows has started recruiting staff from as far away as Mexico, the Philippines and India to man the counters at his coffee shop and worries about finding enough people to hire before his second franchise location opens next month.

He told CBC a number of other business owners in the area have complained about the same issue and that some, like him, have started wending their way through government rigmarole in order to qualify to bring in workers from overseas.

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He joins a multitude of other employers in Western Canada, some of whom have spent the better part of a decade desperately trying to fill a plethora of posts with skilled staff.

The Financial Post noted in June that one Canadian construction company has tapped into a Romanian mining community and found a wealth of talented carpenters and general labourers willing to relocate to Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Giusti Group CEO Joe Giusti told the paper he felt compelled to recruit abroad after failing to find enough homegrown workers willing to do the job.

A common complaint from employers like Giusti, the Post continues, is that young Canadians are increasingly turning away from manual labour in favour of more "prestigious" occupations.

Ft. McMurray's isolated and harsh environment has also triggered drug and alcohol-related concerns as some workers struggle to adapt to their surroundings.

"We are creating a mess," Giusti said. "There is a boom, and there are few qualified people. Most of the jobs are done with unqualified people and improper workmanship. I would say lousy workmanship — and for a huge amount of money."

Workers from the U.S., where unemployment rates still rankle, have also started to head north.

Fort McMurray Today reports that flanks of U.S. Military vets are flocking to the oilsands in order to fill positions.

A deal struck between the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and a job placement agency for U.S. vets has enticed thousands of qualified job seekers to consider their options.

"What I saw was that there was no language barrier, it's not like living in the arctic circle and there are similar Conservative values in Alberta, since veterans also tend to be conservative," Ted Daywalt, president of VetJobs, told the paper. "It's an ideal situation for veterans."

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a win-win for everybody," he added

At least one Saskatchewan Tim Hortons owner may beg to differ.

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