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Fernie launches new website to help bolster Elk Valley workforce

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Fernie has launched a new website to help draw workers into the area to help bolster the Elk Valley’s workforce, and address labour shortage issues in the community.

The Work in Fernie website aims to address the shortage of labour in the area through the spring, summer and fall skiing offseason. According to the Chamber of Commerce, the site will showcase the opportunities the Elk Valley has to offer.

“The biggest thing that we’re trying to put across with the website is just the amount of different careers and jobs on offer,” said Brad Parsell, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “Of course, the other major selling point of moving to a region like ours is the lifestyle, the trail networks, the beautiful Elk River, the skiing and snowboarding. It’s a really great work-life balance out here, and I think especially after the pandemic, there’s going to be a lot of folks looking to sort of escape the cities or the more densely populated urban areas and escape to somewhere beautiful like Fernie.”

Parsell said the area sees a decline in its workforce as the ski and snowboarding season ends each year, and businesses struggle to find workers. The problem has also been highlighted by the ongoing pandemic.

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“Local labour-intensive businesses like hotels and restaurants are in a constant cycle of re-hiring and re-training staff from season to season, which is a costly exercise. This issue has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw many of the Elk Valley’s foreign workers on temporary work permits returning to their home countries,” said Parsell. “Access to a stable workforce is a key economic development pillar for Fernie and the Elk Valley if local businesses are to not only survive this pandemic – but grow and be successful in the future. Any hope of attracting new entrepreneurs, businesses and investment will also hinge on the ability for these new ventures to be adequately staffed year-round.”

The idea of a worker attracting website was identified in the Chamber’s board of directors 2019/2020 strategic plan as something to address the ongoing labour force problems the community has seen.

“A workforce attraction website seemed like a really innovative and interesting way to go about that. It also aligns with some of the priority items in the Fernie Tourism Master Plan, as well as the Kootenay Rockies Destination Strategy. There’s a lot of alignment, this issue has been talked about and identified for quite a while, so it was really our board of directors that thought this would be a really great way to move the needle on this issue,” explained Parsell.

Parsell said the website represents the first step in an ongoing effort to attract workers to the area, with plans to help the site take off in the future.

“The website will be supported by an ongoing marketing campaign, mostly on social media and Google advertising and things of that nature. Once we’re a little bit more out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ll also be popping up at job fairs at major urban centres, in places like Lethbridge, Calgary and Kelowna. We’ll really be taking the website and all of the opportunities in Fernie and the Elk Valley out on the road as part of this effort,” said Parsell.

Local businesses looking for workers are encouraged to post job listings on the website, and Chamber staff are available to assist first time users.

Concepts for the project were developed in late 2019, and money was seeded by the Rural Dividend Fund.

The site officially launched on Monday, June 22, and can be found here.

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