Companies across Newfoundland and Labrador have begun their annual hiring of students to fill summer positions but in Labrador West, small community and municipal organizations are struggling to compete with the money offered by mining companies to a small labour pool.
In a recent Facebook post, the Town of Labrador City said it had to cancel its full-day summer program, which relies heavily on post-secondary student hires, due to a lack of staff.
Maggie Guilbeault, president of the Labrador West Minor Soccer Association, told CBC News her organization has had to get creative in its hiring and is reaching out to high school students.
"Our students are going to the mine. So we have lowered the age slightly to accommodate that issue," Guilbeault said.
It's likely an easy decision for students to take up summer jobs with mining companies in Labrador. The Iron Ore Company of Canada, for example, pays students just over $36 an hour to work in various roles at its mine in Labrador City until Aug. 26.
For organizations and community programs that can't afford to pay a comparative wage, they're losing out on staff members they rely on to get them through the summer.
Jordan Brown, Labrador West's NDP MHA, said Thursday there is a general labour shortage in his district in general, and a housing shortage is making the student shortage even worse.
"It is a daunting task to compete with a mining giant like Rio Tinto who, because of their labour contracts, do pay their students very well because they're very required to. But also you have to look at the different industries," he said.
"It's partly on government to provide a decent wage with their subsidies, but at the same time we are fighting [for] a very small pot of students."
A lack of youth
Labrador West Chamber of Commerce president Toby Leon said there just aren't enough youths to fill the demand for summer hires in the area.
"It's hard to fill those entry-level jobs even when people pay significantly more than elsewhere," he said.
"The youth aren't here. As a community, maybe we need to be a little more imaginative in terms of the use of some of our retired residents."
Some music and theatre programs will push on this summer even with a lack of staff, said Leon, but it will be a long climb back for other programs.
"We want people to come and live here and work here. We have to make sure their families get the same experience as they would get elsewhere," he said.
"They want to have fun. Kids want to have fun."