Skills shortage challenge: 2019’s attraction and retention imperatives

Business in Vancouver sheds light on labour shortage across many sectors


For anyone in B.C. under the age of 43, this is the lowest level of joblessness in your lifetime. That sounds wonderful, but the joy isn’t fully spread.

We led the country in job growth last year, and our 4.4% unemployment rate in B.C. has reached what is known in economic terms as “full employment,” in which it is typically difficult to recruit and retain talent without planting the seeds of inflation.

One of our principal challenges in our market is affordability, with high housing prices and a shortage of rental living, the highest gasoline prices in North America and an underdeveloped transit system, recent tax increases on higher-income earners, the lack of adequate child care and a minimum wage below what is thought of as livable in these circumstances. Despite our inherent natural attraction as a place to live, companies and institutions note the reluctance to move here under those conditions.

The resulting labour shortage in many fields has prompted many employers to re-examine how they build, develop and maintain their workforces.

In many cases this has reshaped economic activity, with businesses operating on reduced hours because they simply can’t find workers. In other cases, workers have been paid premiums to get the job done or are provided incentives to keep the position filled. This has undercut our productivity in some instances and raised the cost of doing business in others.

This week Business in Vancouver examines elements of this phenomenon in the professions, trades, services and tech, and what employers are doing in response. Not all the news is bad, but our special report illuminates the principal issues of a strong economy coming to terms with modern labour management in a market that has much going for it and some definite drawbacks.