Personal Best: Improving local employment

There is such a scarcity of common sense in general that it is frightening. Take the recent government crackdown on temporary foreign workers, a reaction to many abuses in the system especially in the food service business. Fact one is that we are desperate for job opportunities in this area. Fact two is that the restaurant and bar employees are traditionally underpaid, part time and seldom have benefits hence the reluctance of many workers to embrace this area.  Paying less to temporary foreign workers does not fix this problem, it makes it worse. Proprietors say they cannot afford to pay more wages or provide any benefits to employees but now that foreign workers cannot be hired I think they will have to adjust to the marketplace like everyone else in business.

Another interesting situation has occurred as a result of this crackdown by government at our Silver Star Mountain Resort. Apparently they have been employing overseas workers, mostly Australians and New Zealanders, for a while on the hill in the capacity of ski and snowboard instructors with a level three and four certification. They say this is a result of the unavailability of trained personnel at this level. I am amazed that we have such a shortage given the propensity of skiers here and the high level of ability of most. They also talk about the fact that the government, as part of the crackdown, has raised the processing fee to hire foreign workers from $275 to $1,000 per application. Well here is a common sense solution, given we have a community college on our doorstep, perhaps the ski hill could use some of that application fee to collaborate with the college and come up with a plan to train local residents so we could employ local people to do these jobs. Duh!

If we don’t have employment opportunities and a more expansive economy we risk the future of our kids and grandkids being able to stay in the valley. Already we have people who have to leave their families, their wives, husbands and kids to make a living. What kind of a family life does this provide with an absentee wife, mother or husband and father up in the tar sands for most of the time? And yet to get a decent wage and benefits that is what is happening more and more. Even older men who cannot find a decent waged job here are travelling north to heavy duty, physically-demanding jobs that may be damaging to their physical well being. We need to look at alternative and common sense ways of creating employment or changing already existing jobs so that they pay a decent wage so that young families can survive and stay here.

North Okanagan Hospice Society, as most of us know, provides a desperately needed hospice house for those who are coming to the end of their journey but they also provide many other services. They are offering a grief support group called Finding My Way, beginning Oct. 1 for eight consecutive weeks. Sessions will be held in the evenings and the group provides a safe place for adults experiencing grief due to the death of a loved one. Participants will be introduced to the definitions of grief and mourning, discuss ways that grief affects people differently, and identify ways of getting through a time of loss and transition. All interested individuals will be invited to meet with the grief and bereavement counsellor prior to registering for the group to determine their current needs and readiness. For more information, call Panadda at 503-1800, ext: 200.

Pat Black writes about issues concerning seniors in the North Okanagan. Her column appears in The Morning Star every other Sunday.

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