To work or not to work? Local businesses struggle to find workers ‘ready to come back’

EDMONTON — Thursday marked one week since Alberta fully reopened and businesses reverted to full capacity.

Yet, several local employers are finding it difficult to hire new or rehire employees at pre-pandemic levels of employment.

“People are just not ready to come back to work right now,” Jimmy Shewchuk, owner of Say Uncle and Prairie Catering, told CTV News Edmonton.

Business has returned, some workers have not.

“It’s been busy,” he shared. “It’s been good. People have been dining out and enjoying happy hours.

“What we’ve found is most of the restaurants out there had to double or triple their staffing needs and it was all happening at the same time,” Shewchuk added. “It’s been a challenge.”

According to Shewchuk, many people have felt anxious about returning to work.

“People’s comfort levels are very different right now,” he shared.

“(My team) is pushed to their limits of what they can do. We’ve been lucky that people have been pulling extra shifts, working tons of hours to help us get through everything.”. 

GREATER DESIRE FOR WORK FROM HOME OR HYBRID JOBS

Jessica Culo, who has worked in recruitment in Edmonton for 16 years, said she’s never seen such a shortage.

“We have seen a definite increase in the challenges of hiring talent. That would be for both permanent roles as well as contract roles,” Culo said.

“Candidates are really looking for the right opportunity,” she added.

According to Culo, who is president of Express Employment Professionals Edmonton, the city hasn’t had so many jobs to fill in 10 years. 

From her experience, a wide array of factors are affecting hesitancy for workers returning to work, including the time of year, COVID-19 anxiety, government assistance, and a lack of childcare.

One of the biggest factors has been workers wanting to work from home or a hybrid job.

“Candidates increasingly want a hybrid model or option,” she said. “There’s been a lot of silver linings from work from home.”

In Culo’s view, it could take time to get employment levels back to normal – even years. Alberta had an 8.7  per cent unemployment rate in May.

For Shewchuk, the difficulty of finding people to match positions has meant changing his expectations about experience levels.

“Start from scratch,” he said. “It’s hard to find experienced talent right now.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Ryan Harding

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