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Grey Highlands facing staff shortage at local arenas again

'There is a lot of competition out there. We’re seeing people leave for jobs that are less stressful. It’s a difficult time,' says CAO
Rocklyn Arena
Rocklyn Arena in Grey Highlands.

Indoor ice skating season in the Municipality of Grey Highlands may be jeopardized by an ongoing staff shortage at local arenas.

At its meeting on Aug. 3, Grey Highlands council received a staff report that outlined the continuing challenges the municipality faces due to staffing shortages. The issue isn’t new, as the municipality could not operate the arena in Markdale for much of last winter due to a lack of staff.

“It’s going to come as a shock to a lot of residents,” said Coun. Cathy Little after receiving the report. “Is there some way to address it more proactively? Where do we go from here?”

Grey Highlands operates four arenas across the municipality. With a full staff complement they would operate on this schedule:

  • Markdale - five days/week (Wednesday through Sunday)
  • Flesherton - six days/week (Tuesday through Sunday)
  • Osprey - six days/week (Thursday through Tuesday)
  • Rocklyn - five days/week (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday)

The schedule requires 248 staff hours per week, with a full complement of staff in place the municipality has 264 total hours. However, multiple positions in the Parks and Recreation Department remain unfilled and the municipality is currently short 120 total hours.

“Since May 24, 2022, the municipality has been recruiting for a permanent operator position; and since June 30, 2022 has been recruiting for a permanent attendant position. Postings for each position went out multiple times, through our traditional advertising/recruitment channels, as well as through the Ontario Recreation and Facilities Association,” Director of Community and Economic Development Michele Harris said in her report. “To date, these positions remain unfilled. The number of applications received for the vacant positions has been extremely low; most who have applied have minimal to no job-related qualifications; many who have applied have not returned calls when contacted for interviews; others who have been scheduled for interviews simply don't show up. Recent job offers have been put out and declined by potential candidates.”

Harris said the municipality had five interviews scheduled for the day council met and two people did not show up.

“It’s a challenge,” she said. “We’re trying to be as proactive as possible. We have developed strong relationships with our user groups. They want to be part of a solution that works for everybody.”

Harris said the municipality has a full training program in place, looks to recruit candidates who have made a commitment to live in the local area and is looking at the possibility of having staff go into local schools to speak to students about job opportunities available at the municipality.

CAO Karen Govan told council that at a recent conference municipal CAOs were surveyed about what keeps them up at night. She said human resources and recruitment was the number one answer. Govan noted the municipality offers competitive wages and a full and comprehensive benefits package, but even that isn’t enough now.

“There is a lot of competition out there. We’re seeing people leave for jobs that are less stressful. It’s a difficult time,” said Govan. “Years ago people were happy to have a secure job with a pension, but now it seems like the workforce has shifted and other priorities are taking over. We will continue to work hard at recruitment and retention.”

Council made no decision on the issue, as the report from staff was presented for information purposes.

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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