Okanagan hospitality operators turning to Alberta and Ireland for trained workers

The Restaurant at Watermark in downtown Osoyoos sat empty on Tuesday, not because of a lack of customers, but because of a lack of staff.

The Watermark Beach Resort, which operates the restaurant, is also struggling to find housekeepers and maintenance workers.

“We are significantly short of labour and each year it’s increasingly difficult,” said General Manager Ingrid Jarrett.

Employers say the labour shortage in the Okanagan’s hospitality industry is only getting worse.

“We’ve been hearing quite a lot about early closures and the lack of available staff,” said Executive Director of Destination Osoyoos Kelley Glazer.

“It’s an employee’s market as oppose to an employer’s market.”

Glazer says the tourism industry is growing but recruitment and retention of trained hospitality workers isn’t keeping up with demand.

“B.C. is spending a lot of energy and time developing the tourism product and if we’re not able to service the product we’re developing, then we’ve got a problem,” Glazer added.

That problem is being fueled by lower wages, seasonal employment and a lack of affordable rental housing.

Okanagan culinary industry starved of trained workers, offering incentives

Employers are anticipating more than 100,000 job openings in BC by 2020, according to a BC Tourism Labour Market Study.

The Thompson Okanagan region is projected to have more than 12,000 job openings and a shortage of over 1,600 workers by 2020.

The BC Hotel Association is looking to Ireland to recruit hospitality post-secondary students to fill permanent and seasonal jobs in B.C. hotels.

“The project in Ireland that we’re working on is going to be a template that we can then take to other countries that have hospitality and tourism schools,” said Jarrett, who is also the past president of the BC Hotel Association.

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association is travelling to Alberta later this month to recruit workers.

“We know that a lot of Albertans are attracted to the Okanagan region,” said Vice President Ellen Walker-Matthews. “With some of the downturn in Alberta there is an opportunity for students to come over here and find great careers.”

But for some restaurants forced to close their doors, they can’t dish up solutions fast enough.

WATCH: Labour shortage hurting North Shore restaurants 

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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