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

·3 min read
Students in grades 10 through 12 at all Campbell River high schools will have a chance to complete a 10-week placement in one of many service industry workplaces experiencing staffing shortages due to COVID-19. (Shutterstock - image credit)
Students in grades 10 through 12 at all Campbell River high schools will have a chance to complete a 10-week placement in one of many service industry workplaces experiencing staffing shortages due to COVID-19. (Shutterstock - image credit)

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact local economies across Canada, a business group and a school district in Campbell River, B.C., have partnered to come up with a creative short-term solution to the city's labour shortage.

Starting in February, students in grades 10 through 12 from all three high schools in the Vancouver Island city will have the chance to work for 10 weeks for various businesses experiencing staffing issues.

"Canada is experiencing an enormous labour shortage across the spectrum, and it's not going away," said Mary Ruth Snyder, executive director of the Campbell River & District Chamber of Commerce.

"We've had [around 30] companies reach out to us and say 'Hey, we're interested in having a student.'"

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

The students will undergo a two-week "overview" period, where they'll tour hotels, restaurants and tour companies to get a sense of what kind of work they'd be interested in.

During the two weeks, the B.C. Hotel Association has also agreed to provide funding for students to complete industry standard certificates, like Serving It Right for liquor service and FoodSafe for safe food handling.

The students will then be matched with a minimum wage placement for the next eight weeks.

Snyder said it'll be an opportunity for students to connect with an actual workplace, and will allow employers to assess which students might be fit for longer term spring and summer work.

"We have this big need for the next generation to enter into the workforce as soon as they possibly can," said Snyder. "This is a way to start to bridge that gap."

Hospitality careers often overlooked by students

Bev Herperger, the general manager at the Anchor Inn and Suites, said she's very much looking forward to welcoming students to her workplace, and encourages all businesses that need to fill jobs to show interest in the program.

"We will need students trained on front desk, housekeeping, in our restaurant and in our convention centre," she explained, adding that the positions are "very trainable."

"I think hospitality has long been overlooked by students as a place to focus on a career," she said. "If we can bring them in at this age, they may find they want to … make it their lifelong ambition."

Herperger said there are currently no students on staff, and she's a bit nervous that some students might show a lack of "dependability" during the eight-week program, but is still looking forward to a learning experience for everyone involved.

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Google Maps

Program could inspire career paths

Jeff Lontayao, the school district's coordinator for student options and opportunities, said the program will help students become certified in various industries and complete a 30-hour work experience credit they need to graduate.

"It's [also] a really cool opportunity for students to realize 'OK, I need my high school subjects in order for me to take that next step into this industry'" if they become inspired by a certain career path, he added.

Lontayao said there are still some kinks to be ironed out in the new year when the school district starts its recruiting process for both students and businesses, such as figuring out how the work experience will fit into each student's class schedule and extracurricular activities.

In the meantime, Lontayao said a number of school districts outside the region have contacted him for more information and advice on how they can start their own programs.

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