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This pandemic is a weird time. That’s true in all sorts of different ways and spaces, and it’s true for the job market. Some places are desperate to hire, even as unemployment soars. The jobs people want to find don’t necessarily match with the jobs that are available. And, in the big picture, uncertainty looms.
But with crisis often comes opportunity. I chatted with Johnna Puusa and Tina McArthur with WorkBC in Duncan about how people who want to find work or improve their work outlook can seize this moment.
Who is hiring?
“It’s an interesting time right now, because there’s definitely places hiring, and it looks like a lot of places are about to open up their hiring as well,” Puusa, a labour market information specialist, says. Some of the available jobs include:
- Retail workers at groceries and big box stores
- Shelter workers and harm reduction workers
- Workers in healthcare settings, including support positions such as laundry, food service and cleaning
- Pharmacy assistants
- Hazardous material workers and specialty cleaners
- Landscapers and construction workers
- Farm workers
- Order pickers and delivery drivers
- Security guards
Recently, the B.C. government announced a $4-an-hour wage boost to essential workers in healthcare and mental health settings, which will continue through early July. Also, B.C.’s minimum wage rose to $14.60 per hour on June 1.
WorkBC is helping to match job seekers with employers through a job matching program. Job seekers who would like assistance connecting with employers can apply for WorkBC services.
The time to act is now
During the pandemic the number of unemployed people has gone up, but the number of active job seekers has gone down, says McArthur, who facilitates workshops and helps job seekers at WorkBC. She explains that people are heeding public health advice to stay home, or waiting on jobs they might get called back to, or waiting out public assistance programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or Employment Insurance.
That will be a problem down the line, if everyone decides to start looking for work at the same time, McArthur says. “Instead of competing with a handful of people, you’re competing with everybody.”
Now is a great time to get a foot in the door, says Puusa. “There’s been some really good success stories for us, because the lack of labour force has been allowing some people who may have been otherwise overlooked to shine forth.”
It’s also a great time to think about upgrading skills or retraining, Puusa says. “If you can up-skill, you will be more secure.” Lower-level positions have been the hardest hit by pandemic-related layoffs, and using this time to volunteer, work on your resume and build your credentials can make yourself more attractive to employers in the long run.
WorkBC offers a number of programs for people who are eligible for Employment Insurance benefits. Those include help to start your own business, skills training and a wage subsidy program to get paid while you’re in training. Those programs can take weeks or months to get started, so it’s a good idea to act now and get in ahead of the pack, Puusa says.
In addition to the EI-related programs, WorkBC also offers job coaching, resume help, skills assessments and more to anyone eligible to work in Canada who is unemployed or underemployed, Puusa says.
OK, I want to work. What now?
For those who want support, WorkBC offers both self-serve options and individualized help. Most services have gone virtual during the pandemic.
McArthur’s job-hunting advice? “Sell what you have; don’t sell what you don’t have.” That means figuring out what the employer needs and pointing to the skills that you have that match what they’re looking for. Don’t draw attention to the things you see as gaps in your experience. Particularly in the era of COVID-19, many employers may be eager to overlook what’s missing and focus on what you bring to the table, she says.