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Here's what you need to know about the 2023 Squamish job market

If you are thinking of switching careers, now would be the time, says Sea to Sky WorkBC rep.
The labour market is strong in the Sea to Sky Corridor. There are far more jobs than we have people available, according to Natalie Perreault, program manager for the Sea to Sky Corridor WorkBC Employment Services Centre.

Staff shortages have been the name of the Squamish game for the last few years. 

Will it be more of the same in 2023? 

The Squamish Chief caught up with Natalie Perreault, program manager for the Sea to Sky Corridor WorkBC Employment Services Centre, to get the lay of the employment land and what is ahead for the coming year. 

What follows is an edited version of that conversation. 

We are hearing a lot about tech layoffs and a possible recession. What is the labour market like here in Squamish? 

We're seeing that in Canada, but it's not that prevalent in the Sea to Sky. We don't have a big tech industry.

The labour market is pretty strong right now in the Sea to Sky Corridor. There are far more jobs than we have people available, that's for certain.

We're seeing a lot of jobs, but we're not seeing as many job seekers. 

Is that the case across the board, or are there pockets where certain jobs are harder to come by in some sectors? 

I think there's a good variety of jobs right now available for almost every industry, especially industries that have usually thrived on being able to get workers fairly easily.

If people want to make changes in their careers — they're not working in a job that's stable enough, or they are not earning enough, or there's always a risk of potential layoffs — it's a good time for people to make those career shifts, get into different occupations that will be more sustainable long term. There's a variety of everything right now out there. More than I've ever seen, with all the many years I've been here.

That said, there are more people looking for remote-from-home jobs. Those jobs are harder to get because job seekers desire them more. 

They may require certain skill sets that somebody may not have. 

Are employers starting to move away from having as many workers doing remote work? 

It just depends on their work environment. I think a lot of businesses are rethinking whether or not they actually need a brick-and-mortar building to be able to offer the services that they do. 

But at the same time, services such as WorkBC or community services or social services are people services. We need to actually see people.

And it is really hard to do some things remotely. You don't always get the same feel, that same connection with your colleagues and your leadership team, when you're only looking at them through a camera. I think some are looking at how they can have a healthy balance between both remote and in-person. 

We're still humans; we still need that connection.

When you look at in-demand jobs in Canada right now, the list includes nursing, truckers, and electrical engineers. What are the most in-demand jobs in the corridor? 

I would have to say anything in construction, and skilled trades right now is screaming for people. I really feel for those employers. Healthcare and social services also. 

Those are services that continue to see demand and can struggle to meet that demand, especially in the Sea to Sky. I don't want to say we’re coming out of the pandemic, because we are still in it, but we are seeing more people needing those services than we have ever in the past, and we don't have enough people to fill that need. 

Customer service is a huge one for the Sea to Sky. 

It has always been a big industry in the corridor, but because of the high cost of living, it is tough for some of these individuals to be able to make a go and be able to sustain a decent quality of life. 

Are employers hearing feedback that potential employees can't afford to live here, especially with our housing costs? 

It is 100% the housing. The population has grown across all three areas of the Sea to Sky — Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton. We certainly have the population here but what we are seeing is that we're having difficulty attracting and keeping people because they're either losing their housing or can't find somewhere to live. 

I think almost everyone in the Sea to Sky knows of people who have lost their housing and had to leave the community. 

We can’t attract new talent to the area to fill those jobs that we would normally, especially, for example, in a community like Whistler that depends a lot on seasonal workers coming in. They don't have anywhere for these people to live. So we have employers that are really struggling. 

Housing is, I would say, probably the most predominant reason why we see a lot of people who are very qualified, very well educated, and can probably get a job with just a few words, but they don't have housing.

But then there seems like so many folks still commute outside town for work. If we have so many jobs, why is that? 

Squamish is doing a lot of really great work on diversifying their labour market to try to attract talent here. But I think you are always going to have those people who are not going to mind the 45-minute drive to the city. And the wages sometimes can be a little bit higher in the city. Though I do see that the wages are kind of levelling out. A lot of wages in the Sea to Sky have gone up so much just in the past few months to the point that they're very competitive right now. So, I think it will get to that point where that drive might not be worth it.

We commend a lot of the employers, especially in the service industry, where they have raised their wages considerably. That's a huge thing for employers, I think sometimes people don't always realize that. They'll still mock the employer for having a lower wage, but it is huge to increase the wage. Sometimes it is $5 or $6 and that's massive. We still need those employers. We still need those businesses in the community. So if they raise those wages, kudos to them for making that work.

What would your advice be to employers to help attract workers? 

Employers really showcasing the benefits of why it's great to work for their company. For a long time, the Sea to Sky has been an employers' market to some degree. Job seekers have choices now. Be honest about what the work culture is like, the perks, and the advantages. People want to be paid an equitable wage as well, so having employers assess if their wage is competitive. And if they can't raise their wages, what are some other incentives to attract people? Wages are not what everyone wants. Sometimes people value more time off or having a ski pass, or having a wellness package. There are all kinds of different perks.

It's really time for employers to really showcase what they have to offer in terms of work culture, share that mission and vision with the job seekers and sell it to them.

What about how folks are looking for jobs? Do you still need cover letters, for example? 

It has changed. I don't know if it's because of the way the labour market is right now, but certainly, you could probably walk in without a resume and still get a job verbally. It's funny because it almost seems like we're reverting back to something that we used to do back in the older days of job searching.

But, you know, I think resumes are still necessary. Employers are still asking for them; we still see employers asking for cover letters.

With references, I have heard some employers hiring without references, but I've also heard the opposite, where they're really digging deep into references to really try to understand the candidate.

What is your other advice for job seekers? 

It's an excellent time for job seekers. If you are interested in an employer, it is a great time to poke around and ask questions. Do some networking right now so you can really understand what is available to you because there are a lot of options right now for people to choose from. 

Even following a company's social media or things like that — there are many different ways you can connect with a company.

Another thing is, going back to resumes, we didn't use to tell job seekers to put their addresses on there, but now it is a good idea. Get that elephant out of the room by letting the employer know if you have housing here. 

If you live here, put that on your resume. I think that's something that often gets overlooked. 

What do you want to highlight for 2023? 

At this point, Squamish is growing and putting a lot of effort into trying to retain their workers locally and trying to bring in new industries, growing some industries and creating that economic growth. So that is really exciting for Squamish. For a long time, we've been considered a bedroom community of Vancouver, and now we are seeing a lot of people who want to live and work in their community and not have to travel for work. I think in 2023, we're going to see a lot of different types of jobs coming in; we're going to see better opportunities, more exciting opportunities. 

That's really positive. The only downside is the housing. If housing can't keep up with the demand, we aren't going to get that far ahead with the job market. 

For people who do have stability in the community, if they are looking for a career shift, this is an excellent time to be doing that. It is an excellent time to consider upgrading your skills and remain competitive. This is a good time for people to focus on where they want to be and not be afraid to take those steps and have those talks with employers to see where things go. 

Find out more about the local job market at WorkBC Sea to Sky online or call 604-639-1743 to set up an in-person appointment. 


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