Food service work is by far the largest sector for available jobs at Powell River job-search hub Career Link, but they are also some of the most difficult to fill, according to manager Brodie D’Angio.
According to Career Link statistics, during the past few months approximately 30 per cent of jobs posted there were in the food services sector.
“It’s the most prominent job market by far for us,” said D’Angio.
The sector also has some of the hardest jobs to fill, depending on what kinds of skills potential employers require, he added.
About 30 per cent of job postings in the sector are reposted at the job hub. Either employers are not able to find a suitable candidate or they were unable to retain the employee.
Fruits and Roots Juice Bar owner Heidi Jackson said it has been difficult to find and keep the right staff.
“It’s a struggle,” she said. “It’s tough to find qualified people.”
Jackson said in the past she has advertised jobs for months before being able to hire anyone local.
“If it comes down to me having to look for more staff, I would be hitting up job sites in Squamish and putting feelers out that way,” she said. “It’s becoming very expensive for them to live there and Powell River is perfect because it’s the lifestyle they’re used to.”
But hiring people from out of town presents its own challenges. Jackson said those who have moved to Powell River to work end up leaving because they are unable to find permanent, affordable places to live.
“Rentals are really lacking and anyone looking for a place is struggling,” she said. “You spend a month training them, getting them to a place you need them, and then they are gone.”
River City Coffee owner Kelly Sketchley said she has found it increasingly difficult to find candidates with the right skill set and experience for her business. She said she thinks it is becoming more common that the restaurants are running short on staff.
“It seems that everyone is finding it tough to find the right people,” she said. “It’s not just Powell River, it’s all over.”
Sketchley said the issue is not an economic one, where if businesses paid higher wages they would find more suitable candidates. She said that while the high school students and servers she hires are paid minimum wage plus tips, other staff, such as baristas, bakers and food preparers, make more.
In 2016, Powell River’s living wage was $16.75 per hour, according to a Canadian Institute for Policy Alternatives report. BC’s minimum wage is currently $10.85 per hour.
D’Angio said a majority of the jobs posted at Career Link for food-service work are for part-time hours paid at minimum wage.
“People are struggling to cobble together things with part-time, minimum wage work,” said D’Angio. “When people are struggling that hard, it’s difficult to maintain work, as well having to juggle multiple schedules.”
D’Angio added that “there is probably more demand than people who are willing to step into those roles.”