The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is calling on senior government officials to address the labour shortage that is being experienced by North Okanagan business owners.
The chamber believes the cost of housing, a lack of affordable child care and an aging population are largely responsible for the labour shortage.
“We frequently hear from our membership that the most significant operational challenge is access to labour, and while the situation existed prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 has only heightened the crisis,” said Krystin Kempton, Greater Vernon Chamber president.
In a letter sent to the prime minister, premier and both provincial and federal finance and economic development ministers, the chamber said there should be an urgency to fill the employment gap if communities and the economy are to succeed.
“Many vacancies go unfilled, meaning some businesses have reduced hours or are unable to complete orders. This scenario is particularly common within the manufacturing, agricultural and retail sectors in the North Okanagan,” Kempton said.
The increasing cost of renting or purchasing a home is making it increasingly difficult for employers to retain staff, according to the chamber.
“While progress has been made by government and non-profits in constructing housing for those at the lower end of the financial spectrum, many individuals and families in the middle-income bracket find it difficult to rent or purchase a home in the current market,” said Kempton.
The chamber of commerce is calling for the government to conduct a labour study to determine why individuals aren’t pursuing employment opportunities.
It wants the study to look at barriers like health concerns or government assistance that might be preventing potential employees from returning to work during the pandemic.
The chamber also wants federal immigration programs to be expanded so local communities can pursue skilled labour or investors based on local needs, and it’s calling for increased skills training, particularly for women, Indigenous persons, people of colour and those with disabilities.