“Thank you so much for coming up with an out-of-the-box solution,” said Francis Drouin, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP, during a November 19 press conference at Hawkesbury’s Le Chenail cultural centre.
The Prescott-Russell Community Development Corp. (PRCDC), the Prescott-Russell Employment Services Centre (PRESC), the Hawkesbury Industrial Investment Association (HIIA), the Eastern Ontario Training board (EOTB), and the Prescott-Russell Chamber of Commerce (PRCoC) joined forces to create a financial subsidy program aimed at helping businesses throughout the Prescott-Russell region to attract potential employees needed to fill positions.
John Candie, PRCDC executive director, noted during his explanation of the program that the pandemic had a serious impact on many businesses, with some forced to close during the early days because the mandatory self-isolation kept staff homebound. Some businesses now reopening are finding it hard to recruit new employees to fill positions that are still vacant because staff have taken early retirement, found other work during the pandemic that allows them to work from home now, or are unable to report back to work for other reasons.
Non-profit groups that serve local communities are also experiencing similar staffing problems. Several speakers also noted that efforts to recruit potential employees from outside the region is also proving difficult for various reasons, including a growing trend for many people to want jobs that allow them to work from home.
“More and more this labour shortage is forcing our local businesses to make difficult decisions,” said Stéphane Sarrazin, warden for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell, adding that those decisions include having to refuse new contracts or consider reducing existing staff to cut expenses.
The five agencies have pooled their resources to create a $125,000 employment incentive fund. The fund will be available through the PRESC to Prescott-Russell businesses and non-profit groups so they can offer a $1000 incentive payment to any prospective new employee who agrees to accept a full-time permanent position.
The incentive fund will be able to help attract a maximum of 125 potential employees for local and regional businesses. The incentive aid is not restricted to just attracting skilled workers. Candie noted that some businesses are having trouble finding people to fill general labour positions.
The employment incentive fund is meant to complement but not replace existing federal and provincial employment aid programs. Once the $125,000 fund is exhausted, there are no plans to renew it. Candie noted that the five agencies are working on other plans and projects to continue dealing with the local labour situation.
“It (incentive fund) is just the beginning,” Candie said. “What’s important now is to create new jobs.”