Worker attraction and retention chamber priority

Attraction and retention of workers in the Grande Prairie region is an ongoing issue, and community groups are looking to tackle the problem.

The Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce (GPDCC) is working on a project to improve the attraction and retention of employees by providing resources and tools for new workers.

“Shortage of skilled labour is one of the most pressing issues facing employers across the region; further, we're competing with communities across Canada and beyond also facing labour and skill shortages,” said Tanya Oliver, GPDCC CEO, at last Monday’s city council meeting (Nov. 14).

“This is impacting the ability of local employers to grow and remain competitive.

“It's impacting the strength and prosperity of our regional economy and impacting the well-being and quality of life of our communities and people living here.”

She said 61 per cent of businesses in northwestern Alberta are experiencing significant or moderate staffing shortages.

“A strong quality of life is key to attracting and retaining talent, as well as creating a community that residents are proud to call home,” said Jackie Clayton, Grande Prairie mayor.

The chamber is looking to create a “quality of life asset bank” that would highlight amenities, resources, supports and services in the region.

“The asset bank will equip businesses and community with a tool to help facilitate a smooth transition into the region by ensuring individuals have a strong awareness of community assets and ultimately a stronger sense of belonging early on,” said the chamber in a news release.

The chamber is leading the project with the support of the County of Grande Prairie, City of Grande Prairie, M.D. of Greenview and the province.

“This collaboration of partners recognizes that community culture plays an increasingly important role in today’s recruitment strategies,” said Tertius Genis, GPDCC chair.

“Empowering local communities and employers to create a sense of connection for employees outside the workplace is key to ensuring our region has the talent to meet workforce demands.”

County of Grande Prairie Reeve Bob Marshall says the initiative will help businesses meet workforce demands in all sectors of the economy.

“By strengthening awareness that our area is among Alberta’s greatest places to live and work, this project will ensure individuals feel a strong sense of belonging in a place they can call home,” he said.

In the new year, two surveys will be launched as the chamber hopes to gain insight into why employees choose to live or move to the region and gain the perceptions and experiences of employers and new employees.

The regional attraction and retention program is a piece of the Regional Workforce Development Strategy that the chamber is hoping local municipalities will join in January 2023.

The goal of the development strategy is to collectively strengthen the regional workforce.

The cost of the strategy in the first year (2023) is expected to be about $275,000.

The county, city, and M.D. would be asked to contribute $68,500 each, with Northwestern Polytechnic contributing $10,000 and the remaining $60,000 coming from grants.

Mayor Clayton shared her concerns about the strategy at last Monday’s city council meeting (Nov. 14).

“My concern at a high level is the fact that our labour force needs are ever-changing,” said Clayton.

She said if the plan addresses a shortage of hospitality and retail workers today, how useful might it be in six months if an energy contract lands here, bringing with it a need for hundreds of engineers. She said the strategy would need to be able to pivot quickly.

Oliver said that a partnership between the municipalities would ensure all are better equipped to deal with changing market needs.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News