Day-care operator Marjorie Jones’s efforts to fully operate her qathet region day-care centres is being thwarted by a backlog in the federal immigration department.
Jones, who owns and operates Second Nature Childcare Centre and Nature’s Way Childcare Centre, has not been able to find five required staff members in Canada, so she opened the application process up internationally.
“Everyone has staff shortages, including the federal government, is what the minister said,” explained Jones.
As a result, she is not able to get the clearances she needs to bring in more staff.
In terms of the early childhood educators (ECE) she requires, Jones said there has been a shortage for years. It’s an underpaid profession and there has been a $4 per hour government wage enhancement to help, she added.
In order to become certified, ECEs go to school for two years, so there is time and expense involved in procuring the education. Before a wage enhancement program, Jones said the going rate for ECEs was $18 an hour. She pays $22 and with the wage enhancement, the compensation is $26 an hour.
“It’s way better than what it was,” added Jones.
She said running day-care centres is not a high-profit business.
“I’m not here, working like this, because I am making lots of money,” said Jones. “By the time you pay your insurance, your mortgage payments, your rent, all of our supplies and your staff, WorkSafeBC, and mandatory employment-related costs, it adds up. I’m sticking it out and although I’m 65 years old plus, our community needs this service.
“I serve over 100 families in our community between the two centres. Right now, that’s down because of the shortage of ECEs.”
Jones said last September, she hired an immigration lawyer in Vancouver. She applied for labour market impact analysis applications, which are in place to prove jobs are not being taken away from Canadian workers. Each application costs $1,000, not including the lawyer’s fees.
“That goes straight to the federal government,” said Jones. “I applied for five and paid the federal government $5,000.”
With lawyer fees and disbursements, Jones estimates she has $20,000 invested in trying to expand her staff.
“This community is struggling for ECEs,” said Jones. “Everybody who is an ECE is working, or retired, or just done with the profession. That’s why I chose to take this avenue.”
Licensed and ready
Jones said the applications were approved by the federal government on March 22. She said the prospective staff she has chosen are from all over and all have BC licences.
“It’s all people wanting to have a better life in Canada,” said Jones. “I had more than 300 applicants from abroad, and 100 of them were fully licensed with a BC licence. They were ready. I chose five of them.
“They have all done their biometrics and police clearances and now we are waiting on the immigration department to issue them work permits. They are ready to fly here tomorrow.”
Jones said one of the applicants has just received a work permit and is coming on September 14. She has another who went to immigration in Toronto, because she wants to start work immediately. She said, however, instead of getting a work visa stamped, the ECE was interrogated and intimidated. The other three workers are also waiting for clearances.
“With that work permit they will get on an airplane,” said Jones. “I have 28 licensed child care spots open and available right now, but I have no licensed staff. Being able to open those spaces would be critical.
“We have so many nurses going back to work after maternity leave and they are calling me steady. I have done everything I can in my power to get these people here.”
Jones has been working through North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney’s office to try and accelerate the applications but has been told the immigration department is backlogged.
Jones said she loves what she is doing and is committed, but the delays are discouraging.
She said teachers who she currently has are awesome and working very hard at the centres. She said they are waiting for the influx of new staff so they can possibly take holidays.
Currently, Nature’s Way has three staff and Second Nature at full staffing complement has 12 or 13, but now is down to eight or nine.
“With those five positions,” said Jones, “we can go full tilt again.”