Work Perspectives

Tourism: Taking a Look at the Labour Shortage

By Tina Strehlke, Director of Communications
August 2006

A recent report commissioned by go2, the BC tourism industry’s human resources association, confirms that current labour shortages in the Sea to Sky region will worsen over the next decade. Factors such as an aging workforce, increased pressure from other sectors (competing for skilled workers), and the high cost of living in the resort region are expected to make it increasingly difficult for the area to attract sufficient workers. To illustrate the point, a key finding from the report suggests that tourism operators will need to attract an average of 3,500 workers every year from outside of the Sea to Sky region, and that it will not be possible to recruit sufficient workers from the local labour market to fill this gap over the next 10 years.

On the other side of the employment equation, we are starting to see the impact of the region’s growth and development by the number of people choosing to relocate to the area. As the region’s central employment service for the past 6 years, our staff have worked with hundreds of individuals who are attracted to the area for seasonal work opportunities and the active outdoor lifestyle. However we are beginning to see a shift with more individuals relocating to the area with the goal of establishing a long-term career foundation. This is supported by data from Stats BC that indicates that the Squamish-Lillooet region is the fastest growing region in the province, with population expected to double by 2031. In addition to these newcomers, we are working with new parents, many of which have experience and skill in tourism-related occupations. A number of these individuals are seeking new opportunities (frequently self-employment) and are choosing not to return to previous occupations. Most are hoping to find greater flexibility and options for balancing work, life and child care realities outside of the tourism industry.

These two client groups – new residents seeking career opportunity and parents seeking greater flexibility – provide possible sources of skilled labour for the region’s tourism operators. However in order to tap into these workers, some considerations must be made for the perceptions and experiences that many individuals have about the work:

  • The jobs are primarily low paying / low skill
  • The industry prefers younger workers
  • You have to start at the bottom
  • The work is unstable due to seasonality
  • The work schedule makes it difficult to balance work/life and child care

Although certainly not a complete solution to the labour shortage, exploring different ways to address these perceptions, combined with creative HR solutions that take employee needs into consideration, may help local employers tap into the skilled workers that are seeking opportunities here in the Corridor.

For more information on the Sea to Sky Tourism HR strategy, check out: