Saturday August 30, 2014

City seeks to attract workers from Toronto

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The City of Yorkton’s Economic Development Committee spear-headed a recent trip to Toronto to participate at the National Job Fair & Training Expo.

Faisal Anwar, Economic Development Officer said the idea of having a booth at the Job Expo was to “promote Yorkton, and let people in other places know what Yorkton has to offer.”

The Job Expo, said Anwar is focused on attracting job-seekers who were either unemployed, or under-employed and were looking for career options.

“As we all know we’re experiencing a skilled labour shortage,” said Anwar, adding it is an issue across Saskatchewan, and reflected locally as well. He said provincially it is estimated 60,000 more workers will be needed in the province by 2020.

Business also looks at employee shortages as the greatest challenge in terms of business retention, expansion, and attraction in the short term, offered Anwar.

In Yorkton the trend is similar with 800-plus new jobs expected to be created in the local area in the next three-to-five years.

“We all know there is a labour shortage here,” echoed Roy Lanaway, Communications Manager with the C of Y, who also manned the booth at the Job Expo.

Lanaway said the Expo attracts many people looking for new careers, and letting them know of opportunities which exist in Yorkton is part of a process to hopefully fill some employee needs moving forward.

A large component of the Yorkton booth in Toronto was to show that jobs exist here. While a survey sent to more than 450 local businesses to identify employee needs mustered only a three per cent response rate, the SaskJobs website showed “one thousand skilled and unskilled jobs in the area,” said Lanaway. He said having such a list of jobs was “the hook to get them (attendees) to listen to us,” calling it “the best tool” to get people to stop at the Yorkton booth for additional information.

Anwar said it helped that they had done some pre-show work as well.

Posters were send out to several Ontario colleges, YMCAs, and Job Centres with information regarding Yorkton attending the Job Expo. The Yorkton Committee also took out an advertisement in the Toronto Sun newspaper, and a banner ad on the Expo website as ways to pre-inform attendees.

Once they had people at the booth, Lanaway said they tried to provide them with information on the City in a number of ways, from promo cards that easily fit in a pocket, to electronic scan codes which forwarded people to information, to a business card which was also a memory card with all the material pre-loaded.

The information was not confined to employment statistics, but included a look at community recreation facilities, health and education options, and other aspects of the community people often deem important as part of a decision to re-locate.

Lanaway said it was looking at things affecting “quality of life in a broad way.” He called it “a great marketing tool” because “it really showed people the best in Yorkton.”

Anwar said of course an economic profile was part of the package too, adding it was important for “workers looking for economic statistics on Yorkton.

“They could get some sort of knowledge of what kind of growth is happening,” he said.

Much of the written and electronic material was backed up by a series of videos played throughout the Expo, which Lanaway called “again an absolutely amazing tool” in terms of catching attention.

While getting people to stop at the booth was the first goal, the Yorkton Committee went a step farther having those who showed the most interest in possibly relocating to the city fill out an online survey.

“This was a key thing that we had,” said Lanaway, adding it was a participatory way to get people excited about the prospect of maybe taking a job here.

The survey got people’s names, contact information, as well as what sort of jobs they might be interested in. That information will be complied and then shared with local businesses who might offer such jobs. If the local business is interested they can then contact the potential employee, explained Lanaway.

The survey was filled out by 172 people, all pre-screened by a simple question “are you willing to relocate,” said Lanaway.

Anwar said of respondents 19 were unemployed, 33 under-employed, and 24 students, while 76 were looking for change.

In terms of careers sought, they ranged from information technology, to marketing, finance, health services and engineering trades, he said.

Seventy of the respondents were already Canadian citizens and 62 were permanent residents, which Anwar said makes hiring easier than having to deal with immigration regulations.

The survey also helped identify what might be barriers to relocation. While 171 of those surveyed said they were ready to move, 135 added salary was a key in such a decision, as were size of community, prospects for spousal employment, schools and recreational opportunities.

The next step is to collate the survey data, and then get it out to local businesses, said Lanaway.

The Expo trip had a cost of $9,000, not counting the creation of materials which will be used by the City, Chamber of Commerce and others moving forward, said Lanaway. The costs were covered by Economic Development Committee Funds through the City.

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