A new campaign launched by Halifax Transit is targeting Maritimers who left the east coast to work in the oil industry out west.
The municipality has a shortage of trained mechanics to work on its fleet of buses and is hoping to find those mechanics in Alberta.
Currently, there are eight vacancies in the bus maintenance department and many of the current employees are set to retire in the next few years. Department manager, Wendy Lines, says they’re experiencing an “urgent need to recruit.”
“We’ve been running large vacancies for licensed truck and transport mechanics for really the last 10 years,” Lines said.
“I would say the the vast majority of transport and truck mechanics move out west once they’ve completed their apprenticeship or because they can’t get an apprenticeship here in Nova Scotia.”
The recent downturn in the oil industry in Alberta prompted Halifax Transit to launch the campaign to recruit those skilled mechanics back to Halifax.
They have posted ads online on Kijiji and Facebook, as well as started a poster campaign on buses and bus shelters in Edmonton three weeks ago.
The message is clear: come back home.
“Obviously we’re trying to appeal to people that might be either out of work or thinking about a change and wanting to return home,” Lines said.
The Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency agrees there is a shortage of truck and transport mechanics in the province and says it is working alongside the industry and schools to improve those numbers.
“There could be a number of reasons for this low uptake, including the fact that it is a physically demanding trade. We also know that there is strong competition for those tradespeople and apprentices in the province,” said Andrew Preeper, a spokesperson with the agency.
Preeper says there is an industry committee in place to examine labour market issues and ways to address them, such as working with schools to engage youth in the trades.
“We have made it easier for automotive service technicians (AST) to transition into the truck and transport mechanic (TTM) trade by recognizing a portion of their previous training in AST towards TTM,” he said.
Halifax Transit is in the midst of conducting interviews for those jobs and expect to fill those current vacancies with workers who respond to the recruitment campaign.
Even so, they plan to continue to recruit out west because more vacancies are expected shortly.
“Based on what’s going on in their economy and what’s going on in ours, I don’t foresee a point where we have a zero vacancy just because of the transition in our workforce,” she said.
Lines says although they can’t compare with the salaries that were offered on the oil sands, Halifax Transit has been competitive with their pay scales, hours and support for those going through apprenticeships.