Labour shortages in New Brunswick a ‘major’ issue, says Chamber of Commerce

Business owners in New Brunswick are faced with an ongoing challenge in trying to find qualified workers.

A labour shortage report, released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business on Tuesday, indicates there are 6,300 unfilled jobs, with a vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent — the fourth-highest rating among the 10 provinces in Canada.

“For generations, unemployment was the story here,” says John Wishart, who is the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton.

“Now, it’s the lack of people to fill the available jobs.”

He says the vacancies are all across the economy, including jobs at fast food restaurants or call centres, all the way to engineers and accountants.

Wishart says it’s a “major” and complex issue, so it won’t be a timely fix.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Wishart both say immigration is one way to fix the problem, but looking down those avenues can prove to be challenging.

Ida Chen, who manages Cinta Ria Malaysian Fusion Malaisienne, a downtown Moncton restaurant, says they post jobs locally and on job banks, but most of the interest comes from people looking to relocate to Canada.

The timeline to get someone ready and working can take awhile, according to Chen.

Ida Chen, a local restaurant manager, says hiring someone through the immigration stream can take between six months and one year

“It will take at least — for them to [finish] all the process — six months for the [Atlantic Immigration Pilot Project].”

Wishart says the pilot project is a good start by government, but the process needs to be streamlined.

Chen says they can be left waiting for up to a year, allowing the whole process to roll out.

“Any kind of express entry program that gets perspective employees here quicker and puts them on a path to either permanent residency or citizenship is a good thing,” says Wishart.

Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Trevor Holder says in a statement that various approaches are needed to solve the shortage of workers, including immigration.

He says the province is committed to reopening the Provincial Nominee Program, but says there’s also responsibility on businesses to “adapt their human resource practices and policies so that immigration can play a role in their workforce needs.”

Meanwhile, Chen admits some locals might not be interested in working at a foreign restaurant, but things don’t often work out with local candidates.

“If you schedule an interview, it’s either they don’t show up or if they show up, you offer them a job and they don’t show up to work,” she says. “If even they show up to work, it probably is only going to last for two weeks.”

“From a business perspective, it’s very frustrating,” says Chen. “You have to open the door and to keep running the business. If you don’t have enough hands, it’s very, very difficult.”

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