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Jobs aplenty, but is the commitment there?

As the regional recruiter for Ontario at Golder Associates, Tania Hope-Moore vets between 200 and 500 resumes a week.
Job Fair
During a Feb. 7 job fair at Cambrian College, recruiter Tania Hope-Moore, lab manager Sylvie Laporte and construction services manager Tina Gauthier spoke to potential job candidates about the advantage of working for Golder Associates, a global engineering firm with more than 50 years in the business.

As the regional recruiter for Ontario at Golder Associates, Tania Hope-Moore vets between 200 and 500 resumes a week. Yet it can still be a challenge to fill out the company's ranks, because Golder—a global engineering firm with more than 50 years behind it—isn't considered a household name.

The company is currently looking to fill 50 positions across the province. Junior lab technicians, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, draftsmen, designers and CAD operators are all in demand, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

“We average about 60 jobs at any given time,” Hope-Moore said. “We're growing. We implemented a five-year plan last year, and our growth projections are 12 per cent per year for the next five years globally.”

It's no wonder then, that Golder added its presence to Cambrian College's annual job fair, where 93 companies vied for the attention of an estimated 2,500 visitors during the Feb. 7 event. One of the biggest job fairs across Canada, 13 companies had to be turned away for lack of space.

Face time with students can enhance a company's profile, and give them an opportunity to gauge students' interests and provide advice on career paths. Students often want to follow in their parents' footsteps, securing a job that offers decades of stable employment, but the reality is those jobs are few and far between, Hope-Moore said.

“That's why we want to align with the universities and the colleges, because we want students to see what else is out there,” she said. “Sometimes it's just about having those conversations and making them think a little bit differently about their future.”

Ted Okell, human resources representative with DMC Mining Services, a division of FNX Mining Company Ltd., said the company was searching out candidates for front-line supervisors, experienced miners, and heavy-duty underground mechanics, as well as placement students for electrical, mechanical, engineering and technologist positions.

“We are doing a lot of hiring at the present time for a lot of our projects, basically mostly skilled workers at the present time, but we're also taking some entry-level positions,” he said.

The company, which offers everything from health and safety training to mine development and construction services, has found the job fair a useful tool in combating the dreaded trades shortage that is plaguing Canadian industry.

“I think everybody has that challenge now because the industry's booming and the workforce isn't out there like it was a year ago,” Okell said.

While the impact of the trades shortage is less acute for K.J. Beamish Construction, lab supervisor Louise Jean said the construction company still faces its share of challenges.

Despite amassing a stack of 100 or more resumes at a time, job candidates have sometimes already found other work when the company comes calling.

Beamish's needs are simple: a civil engineer for its lab, a new grad to add to its road crew for summer paving work, and a heavy-duty mechanic apprentice. But it can be difficult to get the company's name out there, and candidates' wage demands can be ambitious.

“Some of them I find are very demanding,” Jean said. “You have some who come in and say, 'I won't work for less than $18 an hour.' Well, you've got to prove to us what you've got first before we can bring you up to that point.”

That sense of entitlement extends to the power industry.

Valard Powerline Construction has 300 employees in Ontario alone and is planning to expand as work increases. Its 1,000-strong workforce is completing distribution projects in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and potentially to the East Coast and Europe. People hired in Ontario can be sent to work anywhere the company operates.

But a linesman's schedule can be demanding, working 21 days on, seven days off, and not all young people are willing to make that commitment, said Dennis Chevrier, construction quality assurance coordinator for Valard.

Either they don't want to do physically demanding work, or they are unwilling to leave home, which makes recruitment difficult.

“I don't think we have that many young kids who are accustomed to working with their hands and wanting to work outside in the cold,” Chevrier said. “I think they're a little bit more selective or their expectations are a little bit higher.”

Tradespeople can find it frustrating working with a younger generation of workers, because they don't have a high level of commitment or a solid work ethic, he added. Young workers aren't always receptive to criticism, tradespeople get frustrated they aren't willing to learn, and the workers perceive they're not welcome, pack it in and give up.

Bruce Power, meanwhile, finds itself up against the lure of oil in Western Canada. The company hired several nuclear operators last year as a direct result of the number of baby boomers hitting retirement age, and this year Bruce plans to hire control maintainers, mechanical maintainers, professional engineers, and chemistry students, said Brad Leifso, section manager for Bruce Power.

“We need to be in front of that baby boom bubble by two years, to hire people, bring them into our plant and train them for two years before we actually allow them to operate the plant,” Leifso said.

The nuclear power operator attracts workers by offering a competitive wage and benefits package, and Leifso points to the high quality of life offered by Bruce County as a selling point.

“Once they know we're there, and they know what we do and take a look at it and get involved a little bit, we find that we are able to attract a lot of individuals, but you have to want to work in the nuclear power business,” he said.

Last year, 10 per cent of the students working at Leifso's station came from Cambrian College, which he said has a good power engineering course.