Staff shortages in Saskatchewan hospitality sector at an all-time high

Fresh off of the May long weekend, tourism may be up but staff shortages are at an all-time high.

“Currently listed on saskjobs.ca, so that’s only one platform,” said Jim Bence, Hospitality Saskatchewan president and CEO, “there’s 3,200 jobs; 3,000 available front-line positions.”

Bence said the industry has faced challenges 10-years-ago. But, it pales in comparison to what is happening right now.

“We’ve got compounding challenges with early retirements those types of things,” said Bence. “Massive migration from our industry into other industries which occurred at the beginning of the pandemic because people got laid off.”

Read more: ‘Pack your patience’: What to expect as you book summer travel this year

The COVID-19-related layoff was a path Karlo Hospitality Inc. owner Kail Oppermann refused to take.

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“Our philosophy always was to keep our staff all the time,” said Kail Oppermann. “That’s why we diversified from airline catering to catering itself.”

It’s a decision that paid off for Oppermann.

“Our value has gone up tremendously,” said Oppermann.

Tourism also continues to grow.

Read more: Ahead of summer rush, seasonal businesses struggle to find workers

“We’re seeing much stronger bookings in the accommodation sectors,” said Jonathan Potts, Tourism Saskatchewan CEO.

“In 2020, we dropped way below 50 per cent to 32 per cent average accommodations across the province. It was 41 last year and this year we should be well north of 50 per cent.”

The challenge to hire may be there but Bence said the focus will continue to be on trying to bring in new local employees into the industry before they begin to look outside the province with their new program ‘Belong Saskatchewan’ projected to begin in June.

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