Baby boomers key to BC worker shortage problems

At the BC Tourism and Hospitality Summit 2014, left to right, Keith Baker, Arlene Keis, Debbie Yule and Joyce Lam of go2hr.

At the BC Tourism and Hospitality Summit 2014, left to right, Keith Baker, Arlene Keis, Debbie Yule and Joyce Lam of go2hr.

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By Colleen Isherwood, editor

VANCOUVER—Arlene Keis, CEO of go2hr, said British Columbia’s
1.2 million baby boomers are the best kept secret when it comes to solving the province’s
hospitality industry worker shortage. Keis told the BC Tourism &
Hospitality Summit held in early November at the Vancouver Convention Centre that these
workers are between 50 and 65 years old, are currently working as teachers,
nurses, construction or government workers and are thinking about retirement.

Give them something they want – golf passes, ski passes or
access to the world of foodies, she said. “They don’t care about the big bucks; and they don’t care about working
full time because they want to spend time with the grandkids. And they will show up for work!”

Keis said one of the myths is that such workers are
overqualified and won’t be happy with the job. “But they don’t want to be
managers – they’ve been there and done that.” Another myth is that they will get hurt all the time, while
studies show that that their safety records are not an issue.

Keis had a number of other ideas to solve the problem of
labour shortages. Statistics show that the province will need 108,383 full time
equivalent tourism industry workers by 2020, and if the status quo continues
there will be a labour shortage of 14,006 workers.

She suggested expanding recruitment to target under-represented
groups.  Aboriginal youth are the
only growing demographic in the province, and often they don’t want to leave
their home, meaning opportunities for tourism operators in certain areas.

Some jobs can be adapted to suit people with disabilities,
Keis said. For example, people with developmental disabilities can learn to do
repetitive tasks such as bagging groceries or working as kitchen helpers and
dishwashers. A paraplegic could
run the front desk or a switchboard with a few adaptations. “There are lots of
agencies interested in doing this,” Keis noted.