Restaurants are looking for kitchen help. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Restaurants are looking for kitchen help. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Labour shortage in Maple Ridge, as unemployment rate plunges

Rate this year a percentage point lower than last

B.C. businesses are begging for workers, judging by the latest employment numbers from B.C. Stats.

The latest numbers show there’s been a drop of just more than one per cent, when numbers from this November are compared to the same month a year ago. A year ago, B.C. had an unemployment rate of 5.9 per cent.

This year, that number sits at 4.7 per cent.

Help wanted signs are visible in stores around town, but it’s not a case of all businesses begging for workers because it’s a complex issue, says Maple Ridge’s economic development manager Lino Siracusa.

For instance, an employee at Maclean Brothers Drywall said they don’t have difficulty filling staffing openings.

“Depending on the type of jobs you’re talking about, there is a labour shortage,” said Siracusa.

Generally, there’s a shortage of technical and skilled workers across all sectors. But even some low-skilled service jobs, such as restaurant kitchen staff are going unfilled.

Employers as a result have to be creative in how they hire, perhaps by offering on-the-job training, Siracusa added.

“Employers that are creative, will find the labour.”

For Kal Tire, with stores around B.C., finding enough people is a constant challenge.

“Overall, certainly we have felt the crunch of the labour shortage, definitely in the Lower Mainland,” said Emily Phair, manager of recruitment.

Phair added that there’s a lot of competition for retail space in Metro Vancouver, plus the high cost of living or housing makes it difficult to hire people, or convince them to move to the area.

“We felt it big time,” said Phair.

“All across the board, our recruiters, even in the Interior, but more in the Lower Mainland, struggled this year. And the repetitive response from candidates … was the cost of living.”

Steve Robinson, owner of Pitt Meadows Plumbing, says that employee retention and attraction is the biggest issue they face. But even finding enough space to manufacture is a challenge.

The help wanted signs are everywhere in the hospitality business from online to storefronts with businesses seeking kitchen assistants, baristas, servers and delivery drivers.

On the job search site, Domino’s Pizza in Maple Ridge, has immediate openings for delivery drivers, while Jim’s Pizza posts for a delivery driver and kitchen help in the downtown.

At Green House Bistro and Cafe, Mehdi Habibzadeh is looking for help in the kitchen and another food server. He finds when people get hired that they don’t always want to put in the hours or they’re not available for shifts.

“It’s hard to find the right people.”

He employs seven waitresses, but some are going back to school. Waitresses make $10.10 an hour, plus tips, which brings wage up to between $14 to $15 an hour. Kitchen staff earn $11.35 an hour, plus tips.

The B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association has addressed the labour shortage issue with a six-month study and presents its findings at an industry town hall in Vancouver on Jan. 16.