Gather two or more employers together and discussion naturally turns to difficulties they are experiencing in hiring and retaining employees. Many Peninsula businesses have ‘Help Wanted’ signs in their windows. Finding staff with the appropriate skills and experience is the most commonly-expressed challenge.

This situation has arisen due to a convergence of factors: one being the low unemployment rate and another being a disconnect between the skills employers are hiring for and what employees are actually bringing to the workplace.

This mismatch in skills is multi-faceted. Much of what employees are learning in universities and colleges are skills for jobs or careers that were in demand in the past. Our education system is not nimble enough to keep pace with what employers in higher tech industries actually need their employees to know. Further frustrating the employer/employee relationship is that recent college and university graduates often don’t demonstrate the “soft skills” that employers indicate are essential for success in the work place. These skills include an ability to communicate clearly, team work, self-awareness, and an understanding of their place within the organization.

Employers often create entry-level job descriptions using a college or university degree as a screening criteria expecting that those who have completed this level of education will be more reliable employees. Perhaps the tasks are routine and will frustrate someone expecting more variety and opportunity for advancement. There might be better strategies to hire for work ethic and proficiency than considering educational achievement. Highly educated employees are accepting entry-level jobs because that is what is available to them thus creating a barrier to employment for true entry-level workers who have the appropriate skills for that type of position. This mismatch of expectations can result in high turnover.

Our Chamber is involved in initiatives to assist employers of all sizes: the first is our Business Speaks lunches which will be held monthly at the Mary Winspear Centre. These sessions will offer members of our chamber an opportunity to engage in free-flowing discussions of best practices, celebrations, challenges with fellow business-people on the Peninsula. The second is the EduTech event which connects advanced technology & manufacturing sectors, secondary students, and the community. October 27 and 28 at the Shoal Centre in Sidney. For more information on this event, check out the social media feeds on Twitter and Facebook @SaanPenEduTech

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

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