A lack of qualified workers, poor work ethic and difficulty in attracting new employees are among the challenges facing Thompson’s auto sector industry identified at a recent breakfast meeting hosted by the Thompson Chamber of Commerce.
The meeting was attended by eight auto sector business owners and managers, as well as Chamber of Commerce committee members Sandy Hayes, Keith MacDonald, Dennis Green, Dave Moore, Volker Beckmann and Dana Cyrenne.
Other challenges identified included the difficulty small businesses have competing with high wages offered by large-scale employers, and potential workers not wanting to come to Thompson because of the perception of crime and downtown social issues.
Meeting attendees expressed concern that northern autobody shops are facing a crisis as several have closed due to a lack of qualified technicians, which is making it difficult for those that remain open to provide reliable service in a timely manner due to the volume of work and lack of qualified staff.
Employers also said that many young workers from Thompson have high expectations and demands despite little experience and that more youth seemed to be interested in heavy-duty mechanics than in servicing lighter vehicles. Lower high school graduation rates in the north are also reducing the availability of students in some career paths, they felt.
Potential solutions regarding attracting qualified staff included hiring foreign workers, which can be a lengthy process and requires ensuring that social support and access to English classes is available after they arrive. The chamber asked if employers would support a small business recruitment campaign to focus on areas of Canada where unemployment is high, using Thompson’s affordable housing as an enticement.
The chamber has identified a dozen sectors selling products and services in Thompson and will hold future meetings with owners and managers in different sectors in hopes of finding out if businesses have common issues and how the chamber can alleviate problems that are hindering business growth and prosperity. Business owners and managers do not have to be chamber members to be invited or to attend.
The next meeting will take place at the end of July and is open to businesses involved in retail sales. Interested managers and owners are asked to call the Thompson Chamber of Commerce office at 204-677-4155 if they wish to be included among the invitees.