Looking for work or hiring during a pandemic | Squamish Chief

Looking for work or hiring during a pandemic

What is the current pandemic doing to the Squamish job market and what can we expect post-COVID-19?

The nature of work has shifted for most people during this pandemic and is likely to keep shifting, according to Patrick James of Squamish's WorkBC Employment Services Centre. WorkBC represents both job seekers and employers looking to hire and endevours to connect the two.

The service is free.

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James said one thing he is noticing is that while job seekers were previously often open about how close they were to financial ruin, at the start of the COVID-19 shutdown, some business owners were acknowledging that as well. This is something James said was a new phenomenon.

Some employers said that their revenue immediately had gone down 30 percentage points to 70%. With smaller businesses, this didn't just mean the business was in jeopardy, some worried about losing their homes.

"They weren't thinking they would rehire, they were hoping they would not have to go out of business, period," James said.

With employees, James said he has found that for some, a break from work has made them question going back to the job they had.

"Toxic colleagues," was a phrase he heard from some employees who were laid off.

Employees also spoke of how their lives had previously become their work, with rests on the weekend to recharge for the next exhausting week and so with reflection, they don't want to go back to that.

"When people got a break from that, they sort of said, 'I am not going back,'" James said, adding it isn't about people not wanting to work at all, but some don't want to go back to their old jobs.

This was most notable in administration and office work.

"They didn't plan on it, but there was so much talk about wellness and wellbeing and taking care of yourself, I would think there has almost been a bit of a mini-revolution in people's thinking," he said.

"Some people are looking at changing careers completely."

For WorkBC, James said he foresees new negotiations between job seekers and employers on the horizon, due to the pandemic.

Much has been written, James noted, about how past epidemics and pandemics changed society. The status of the labour of farmers and craftsmen was greatly increased, for example, after the 14th-century Bubonic plague.

James doesn't see something as drastic coming out of COVID-19, but he does hear at least some workers saying they need a better work environment. However, he acknowledges that attitude may shift again as people's finances become more of an issue the longer they are out of work.

"Our clients with families are really keen to get back to work," he added.

In terms of current hiring, James said there is a bit of confusion.

Employers seem to be saying they are opening up and need to hire, but can't find people, and job seekers are telling WorkBC staff they are trying to get hired, but not getting calls back.

"I would say if someone wants a job, there are jobs out there right now — there are employers who want to hire."

He said WorkBC is gearing up for a very busy stretch as things open back up locally.

With Whistler, he said, a lot of temporary foreign workers left and can't come back right now, so the labour pool has shrunk.

Demand for labourers, such as landscapers and retail workers, has recently been more plentiful than in other types of work, he said.

"It is still, to some degree, a job-seekers market, balanced a little bit by the fact that not every single company is going to reopen immediately and want to hire staff immediately. I think there is going to be a month or two where people are a little cautious."

On the practical side, some employers are not taking in-person, paper resumes, due to concern over COVID-19 transmission.

James' top piece of advice for those who lost their job and want to get back to work, beyond contacting WorkBC, is to really look at what the employer is asking for in a job posting.

"What is the employer asking for, really. What are the top three compelling reasons for them to hire you?"

Employers may be a little more open to someone who is going to fit with the team and be a good steady employee, even if the job seeker doesn't have all of the experience requested.

For Squamish employers, James said his top piece of advice is "hire for attitude and train for skill," he said.

"That is more important than ever."

He added that so much is changing with jobs anyway — everyone learning new ways of doing things during COVID, that training someone is going to be par for the course, regardless.

"There are a lot of good people out there who want to work and there are a lot of good employers who want to hire. I would just remind everybody of that," James said.

The Squamish Centre is not currently open to in-person, walk-in visits but can be reached over the phone or email.

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