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Letter: There's no labour shortage. There's an employer accountability shortage

This letter writer says they can’t get hired and no employer will tell them why
Uber driver servicing Vancouver International Airport. An April study showed that precarious employment, like gig work, is pervasive in B.C. | Rob Kruyt / BIV

Dear Editor: 

I moved from out of province to the North Shore back in February for full-time studies at a private college in downtown Vancouver. After a couple of months, I began looking for part-time work. I thought it would be easy. There’s a labour shortage, right?

For the third time in as many months, a major hotel is looking for part-time banquet servers, flexible hours. Perfect for me – I typically walk seven miles a day. I enjoy interacting with people and I have strong arms. But I won’t apply. I have already applied twice to the earlier postings, with no success. I’ve learned my lesson: don’t bother.

Why am I unable to get this kind of work? Is it because I failed the hotel’s quiz that had irrelevant questions about being a front desk clerk? Is it because it doesn’t allow me to re-take the test? is it because I’m 64 and the online system won’t recognize my restaurant experience from 1980 as relevant? Is it because my cell phone number is from out of province?

The automated system doesn’t provide answers – only human beings can and they can’t be reached. I went in person to the hotel, but couldn’t get past the front desk.

I recounted my story to friends and fellow students. My friend’s children are experiencing the same situation – young, hard-working, educated adults who can’t find employers willing to hire them for basic part-time positions in areas where they already have experience. Nor can they find answers to what they might need to change in order to be hired. In the case of a fellow student, she was told that the business doesn’t want to hire someone who might be leaving the area in four month’s time.

There is no labour shortage. There is a shortage of accountability. Prior to the internet, all I had to do was walk in or phone a business and ask them for reasons why I was not hired. And they would tell me. Now, you can only guess. But businesses continue to claim there is no one out there to do the work.

I contacted my MLA, the Ministry of Labour and even the Temporary Foreign Worker program. I was sent around in circles. No one seems to have a clue about the reality facing capable resident workers in the current market.

So, I depart lovely B.C. in six weeks and go back to my day job with a diploma and a debt far deeper than expected. In the meantime, if you find yourself saying, “What’s wrong with the locals? Don’t they want to work?” please remember, we are here.

If you are an employer, and you haven’t done so already, start looking at your staff and ask: Do I have hiring diversity? Part-time positions? Students? Seniors? Or am I just holding out for full-time workers I can bring in from abroad? Take a chance, put in the effort. Look around at other businesses who are taking the responsible, community-minded approach. They are there. You can be one, too.

Mary Grant
North Vancouver

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