District faces staffing challenges

Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many without a job, but an increasing problem in the Rainy River District is job advertisements left unanswered.

Dana Cridland, human resources coordinator for community living in Fort Frances and the Rainy River District, said hiring for jobs has become very challenging.

“There is just a lot of jobs compared to candidates,” Cridland said. “We’re definitely dealing with staffing shortages. You can see it across our district. All the boards are bursting with different jobs for the Rainy River District, but just not enough candidates to fill those jobs.”

Cridland said a reason for that could be the general lack of people and the general population is a factor. Cridland said another barrier for not finding suitable candidates is the lack of local colleges in the Rainy River District that offer a developmental service working diploma.

“Not having access to that education is a barrier for some candidates, because maybe they aren’t aware of this sector as a career option,” Cridland said. “I think that if we were to have something local there’d be more candidates. Then we could provide placement opportunities to open the doors for a lot of people.”

On the other hand, Jordan Forbes, human resources manager for the Town of Fort Frances, said they have a harder time hiring for trades positions compared to the management ones. Forbes said this is because trades jobs require certain certifications that are hard to obtain in the Rainy River District.

“We’re struggling with hiring a facilities attendant and an operating engineer,” he said. “The [facilities attendant] position is someone who manages the ice plant at the arena. You need a certification for doing that, either a Class B refrigeration operator or refrigeration mechanic. Those are somewhat difficult designations to get and we’ve had a challenge recruiting for them.”

In terms of skill, Cridland said skills for any particular job advertised in the Rainy River District would be the same compared to urban areas. However, it is the understanding of the north and remote and rural locations that is definitely helpful for any candidate.

Looking forward, perhaps 10 years from now, Cridland said the workforce in the Rainy River District will be different because younger people are looking for different things.

“I’m thinking that work life balance is going to be a number one priority for most young workers in the future,” Cridland said. “People are really prioritizing, having a life outside of work and not just having their work as the only number one priority.”

Sometimes, younger people are looking for increased flexibility, because they may be working more than one job compared to previous generations that had only one job Monday to Friday, Cridland added.

When Cridland is hiring for a job, she said they are looking for candidates that have the soft skills for any position, and that they are able to showcase that based on their prior work experience or prior life experience.

“Things like flexibility, resilience and a strong work ethic,” Cridland said. “I think that the hard skills are things that can always be taught, and people can get trained on that. But I think the soft skills are definitely what we prioritize. And a passion for what they do.”

Cridland said she would advise candidates applying for any job to read the job description and research the organization before an interview.

“There’s a lot that young people can do to kind of prepare for an interview and the interview is that first impression on the hiring committee,” Cridland said. “Come to any interview prepared and showcase that.”