Grande Prairie faces a (restaurant) worker shortage
A Grande Prairie franchisee gets creative to fill the employment gap left by changes to the TFW program
by Alberta Venture Staff
Energy companies can’t seem to lay off workers fast enough. But of one Alberta’s oil and gas hotspots, Grande Prairie, is facing a worker shortage – at its restaurant chains.
Shawna Miller, the franchisee for several local restaurants, says she is losing trained staff at an alarming rate because of changes to Canada’s temporary foreign worker program. “We’re losing a lot of skilled people that we spent a number of years working with to develop their skills and abilities,” she says. “And we’re kind of getting a drain that way.”
Miller once had 100 TFWs working for her. Now she employs about 50 – and she could just as easily lose them, too. Under the new rules, all TFWs in low-skilled positions must either leave the country after three years when their permit is up, or become permanent residents. And rules governing hiring practices under the program make it difficult for Miller to replace the workers she’s lost with new TFWs. And she’s not alone. Fred Dodd, who runs the McDonald’s locations in Grande Prairie and Peace River, has said he expects to lose 150 staff this year.
With oil and gas jobs drying up, Miller says she is seeing more local resumés come across her desk. But it’s still not enough to fill all the vacancies. While she says her starting wage is competitive, it doesn’t come close to what an entry-level worker can make at one of the nearby oil and gas operations.
So to fill the gap, Miller has gotten creative. She’s in talks with Seven Generations Energy about a partnership to transport workers from the Horse Lake First Nation, about 40 minutes away, to her restaurants. “We wanted to make sure that we were living up to our promise to make jobs available to locals who wanted them,” she says. “So we’re trying to go over and above to remove some of the barriers to entry for people to be able to find work.”