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Saturday, February 22, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Job vacancies become harder to fill in the townships

New Workforce Planning Board survey reveals a number of problematic trends for employers, particularly in rural areas

It’s becoming increasingly tough for employers to find the right candidates to fill vacancies, particularly in local and rural areas, says a new report from the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin.

In the organization’s 2019 EmployerOne Survey, 92 per cent of Woolwich Township respondents said that they had difficulty hiring over the past 12 months.

In Wellesley Township, 86 per cent reported the same trend.

Those numbers are higher than overall findings in the three counties, where 65 per cent of the 542 employers surveyed had trouble filling positions, up from 59 per cent in 2017. The small sample size – 13 in Woolwich, seven in Wellesley – may have skewed the local numbers, but reflect the trend.

“Many of our rural employers are having issues finding people … I think that’s because people aren’t aware of the opportunities that exist in rural,” said Charlene Hofbauer, executive director of the Workforce Planning Board.

“For example, there’s an engineering job in Puslinch; someone had problems finding engineers. I don’t think that people are 100 per cent aware of those opportunities, so they shift to the cities because they believe that’s where the jobs are, instead of looking a little bit in their backyard.”

General labour, careers related to meat processing, and supervisory roles in manufacturing were particular problem areas for employers in Woolwich and Wellesley.

Across the Waterloo Wellington Dufferin catchment area, which encompasses all communities of Waterloo Region, Wellington and Dufferin counties, there were specific sectors that struggled to hire. Manufacturing, accommodation and food services reported the greatest difficulty, with 80 per cent of 126 respondents noting an issue.

“Take manufacturing for instance … people don’t think there are opportunities there. They don’t understand how the opportunities would work for them, so they don’t apply,” said Hofbauer.

“And those are well-paying jobs, whether it’s the floor, supervisor, or manager. So I think that’s one piece, that communication needs to get out better, of where these jobs are. And that they’re good jobs, and jobs where you can grow.”

Other hard-to-fill positions included administration and support, waste management and remediation services (78 per cent of nine respondents), construction (76 per cent, 59 respondents), and transportation and warehousing (75 per cent, 12 respondents).

“I think it comes down to that there aren’t a lot of applicants. That was the number one reason why people had such a hard time filling positions,” said Hofbauer.

“It used to be for some positions … you would put out an ad, and get 200 applicants. And there are still positions like that … but I think some of the things that employers are looking for now, people haven’t been going into those fields.”

The survey also measured the barriers that employers faced:  not enough applicants (54%) was the most commonly cited reason, followed by lack of qualifications (48%), lack of motivation/attitude (44%), lack of work experience (39%) and lack of technical skills (36%). Employers had the option to select more than one reason.

Employers stated that they were looking for applicants who had work ethic and dedication (60%), technical skills (41%), self motivated (38%), teamwork abilities and interpersonal skills (32%) and communication (25%).

“Most employers were looking locally … and most employers went through word of mouth. They’re telling their employees, and hoping that their employees would tell their friends,” said Hofbauer, of the methods used by employers when they’re looking to hire.

Some 96 per cent of respondents recruit locally. Other methods used included online job boards/postings (77%), social media (42%), company’s own internet site (41%) and on-site recruitment at schools, colleges, or universities (23%). In rural areas, online job boards were a popular method for hiring purposes.

The Workforce Planning Board is currently taking input for its 2020 EmployerOne Survey, which will give the organization insight into hiring challenges and specific workforce needs. The 2020 survey will provide a snapshot of the 2019 hiring year and can be found online.

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