The Winkler and District Chamber of Commerce is looking for ways to address a city-wide labour shortage.
Keith Gislason, President of the Winkler and District Chamber of Commerce said he doesn't recall a time like this when it seems like everyone is hiring. "We're hearing almost across the board that everybody is looking for people...it's a really difficult situation for some businesses."
Gislason thinks it's due to a number of factors, explaining manufacturers did quite well in the last couple of years and have been hiring a lot of people, including many of the people that were shifting out of retail due to a shortage of work, or shut-downs. He said now that everything is coming back, they're not only seeing growth in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors that have been continuing, but now that the retail sectors are also trying to grow again, it only compounds that shortage.
"It's a difficult situation if you're a business owner because you're competing for the same people."
Gislason explained when job growth happens faster than population growth, immigration needs to happen. In the past, Winkler has seen immigration from other countries, which has slowed a bit in the last few years. Gislason said there are a number of initiatives underway to once again increase immigration to the area.
"But I also think we need to look at immigration from within Canada. We have a good quality of life here and a good standard of living and we're talking to people about how can we recruit people from within Canada?"
Gislason added, that Mark Sawatsky, the Business Development & Immigration Officer for the region, will play a key role in the area of immigration.
"The timing is perfect for him to be on board and we're looking to work with him and support him as much as we can personally. And I think that's going to be a key component going forward."
Gislason says it's great to be in a place where there are more job openings than people, but it's also very frustrating if you're a business owner.
"We got to take advantage of the situation while we can. I think we've seen a lot of benefits from immigration. You know, some of the cultural things we've been able to experience in Winkler, it's definitely broader than when I grew up here. Which is kind of refreshing in many ways."
"I would encourage everybody to get out and talk to people," added Gislason. He said if you have people in your network, either around the world or around Canada that tell you they're finding it difficult to find work where they live, tell them about Winkler. "Tell them how great it is. We have a wide variety of opportunities. Whether it's retail, manufacturing, offices, every sector pretty much is growing and hiring and we have to share the good news about what's going on here."
Meanwhile, Gislason noted Winkler truly is unique for how some of its companies are known for the way they treat their people. He said he gets to work with some global companies and some different companies.
"The ones I work with here in Winkler, really do care about their staff. It's easy to do here because we expect it, but it really is unique globally. You talk to business owners, and they're worried about their staff that have young families...people are getting stressed because of what's going on here, and (wondering) how do we take care of them best. We take it for granted because it's normal, but it's really not normal, globally."
Meanwhile, as local businesses are struggling to fill specific jobs, which in some cases has affected hours of operations or forced changes to how some services are offered, Gislason says although it can be frustrating for the consumer, he strongly encourages people to still shop locally.
"I believe strongly in shopping local where we can," said Gislason. "Yeah, there are some things we can't, but in many cases, you're supporting our local community. You're supporting the growth, you're supporting the businesses that in turn support things like kids' activities and the arts, and parks and all those things. As much as we can, we have to do what can to support these businesses, even though they're going through a very tough time for them right now."