BC Partners in Workforce Innovation: Meeting Today’s Labour Needs for the BC Tourism Industry

There’s no question that businesses across British Columbia and Canada are challenged with recruitment and retention issues; and BC’s tourism and hospitality industry is no different. With current labour shortages that are only expected to worsen, many organizations are tapping into diverse labour sources to help meet their needs. The BC Partners in Workforce Innovation is a new program that recognizes this, zeroing in on employers needs and the kinds of experience and skills they are seeking in their recruitment process.

Officially launched in June 2015, this collaborative effort between the BC Centre for Employment Excellence and service agencies works with employers who are interested in accessing a skilled and qualified labour pool of people with disabilities to meet their staffing needs. This entirely free service is managed by recruitment specialist Jamie Millar-Dixon, who will take charge in matching businesses with candidates who have the qualities, skill sets, career interests and capabilities for the job.

“Basically, we work in partnership to help employers tap into a workforce that they are not usually accustomed to recruiting to help meet their business needs,” said Millar-Dixon. “We make it easier for employers to hire by simplifying the process and creating efficiencies along the way, acting as an extension of their HR or recruitment team.”

This three-year pilot program runs similarly to a traditional employment agency, but with greater access and reach as it connects with upwards of 40 employment service agencies throughout the province, all of which are accessible through this singular program. This effective and efficient all-in-one approach means that employers need only to work with one organization, which has access to dozens more, to find the most suitable candidates with diverse abilities. This is seen as a real benefit to businesses committed to a workforce that represents the communities they serve and do business in.

“There are many myths about hiring people with disabilities – such as safety issues, extra costs of accommodation and so on,” said Millar-Dixon. “But these are just myths, and people with disabilities have a range of abilities, experience and skill sets – and these are important to tap into, especially now.”

To assist employers with their recruitment process, Millar-Dixon and her team focus on the position first, then reach out to their vast database of contacts and networks to find the right candidates for the job. She and her team then filter the candidates through an ardent pre-screening process and facilitate any on-the-job training that may be necessary for new team members.

“My background is in tourism, hospitality and business, so I understand the needs of the industry and can help employers with recruitment from this talent pool,” Millar-Dixon said. “I also understand the unique tourism business culture, and can bridge the gap between the tourism industry and the social service sector.”

Several Lower Mainland tourism businesses have signed up with this pilot, including the Edgewater Casino and Century Plaza Hotel & Spa, a major founding Employer Partner that has already recruited two staff members for its restaurant and café.

“The hotel has always been supportive of creating a diverse and inclusive environment, and this just takes things one step further,” said Bruce Woods, Executive Chef at C | PRIME Modern Italian Steak and Wine Restaurant at the Century Plaza. “Plus, the program is so easy to work with given all the support it provides, like pre-screened resumes and all the training and hands-on support once the candidates are hired. That gives me a lot of peace of mind.”

Woods only recently joined the Century Plaza Hotel, having moved to Vancouver six months ago from Toronto. Once on the job, the task for filling positions quickly became one of his responsibilities. In his search to fill positions, he noticed what many in the industry have already experienced: a shortage of skilled workers.

“We posted jobs on various sites and got only a lukewarm response, and many that did respond didn’t follow-up or even show up to interviews – it was very frustrating. But through this pilot, we’ve already had two successful hires, both of whom have been here for more than three months now. It’s been really positive.”

Since this program focuses on current job openings, the employer’s needs are thoroughly evaluated to find suitable candidates. While pre-screened resumes are a part of this service, the program also provides follow-up support for employers to ensure a successful match.

“It all comes back to finding a hard-working and loyal talent pool, and that’s why we’ve worked with this program – and will continue to work with this program,” Woods said. “We’re reading about all these vacancies for line cooks and other kitchen help. There are so many restaurants out there, and so many jobs to fill so why wouldn’t you want to invest in staff who want to learn and who show initiative.”

About the BC Partners in Workforce Innovation:

The pilot program is being managed by the BC Centre for Employment Excellence on behalf of the Employment Action Committee (EAC), and is funded through the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation’s Research and Innovation Fund.

For more information or to sign up with this free program to help with your recruitment, contact Jamie Millar-Dixon at 604.691.1783 or email.