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Big White Ski Resort bracing for possible labour shortage

Click to play video: 'Ski resorts brace for possible labour shortage' Ski resorts brace for possible labour shortage
Ski resorts brace for possible labour shortage

While snow is starting to accumulate at Big White Ski Resort east of Kelowna, the same can’t be said for the number of workers needed for this upcoming winter season.

“The staffing issue is the most critical issue on my desk today,” said Big White’s senior vice-president, Michael J. Ballingall.

The resort typically relies heavily on workers from Australia, New Zealand and Europe, but getting those workers here has proved challenging.

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“You can’t get a visa to come to Canada right now,” Ballingall told Global News. “The bureaucracy is just backlogged three to four months.”

Ballingall said even workers from abroad who are still in Canada can’t be employed.

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“The real concern for us is there are people with visas that have expired in Canada right now, and they will work in the hospitality and the ski industry if we turn those visas back on,” he said. “That’s what I’m really asking our elected officials to do.”

According to Ballingall, Big White needs about 600 workers to get through the winter season, but has so far only confirmed employment for about 250.

And while all departments at the ski resort are needing employees, it’s mostly the hospitality positions that are desperately needing to be filled, including restaurants and hotels.

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“We’re looking for front desk people, we’re looking for night auditors, we’re looking for attendants to clean the rooms, we’re looking for shuttle bus drivers,” said Ballingall.

At the ski resort’s only grocery store, the Market at Big White, numerous positions need to be filled.

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“We definitely need it in all departments; groceries, deli, liquor store. All of it,” said Judy Mallam with the Market at Big White. “We haven’t had as many people looking for work as we usually do.”

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Mallam added that in years past, many employees came from abroad.

“We haven’t gotten the Australians coming over this year; we used to get a lot. That was most of our staff actually, not that many Canadians,” Mallam said.

“Usually it was Australians or from England … but this year I’ve had none of that, so that’s what we are lacking.”

Ballingall said he’s not pushing the panic button just yet, adding he’s optimistic more people will look to fill all those positions in the near future.

“The problem is that right now people are collecting CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit). They’re collecting insurance from the government that expires on Oct. 23,” he said.

“We’re going to think that there’s going to be a massive upswing of people looking for jobs after that date.”

Big White is scheduled to open on Nov. 25, but training for staff begins mid-month.

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