For the month of September, Regional Connections is holding a Job Fair Giving employers and job seekers a chance to fill 20 days with in-person meetings, aiming to fill 200 available jobs within the 20 participating employers. 

We reached out to two of those employers, Elmer's Manufacturing Human Resources Manager Trevor Siemens and Meridian Manufacturing Human Resources Manager Terra Friesen, to share the employer perspective on hiring. we also spoke to a newcomer, Eric Lai from Hong Kong, who can share with job seekers his experience in finding the right fit for him.  

First some context:
Manitoba’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.5 per cent in July, setting a record as the lowest percentage the province has seen since the labour force statistics series started in 1976. The unemployment rate in Canada sits at 4.9%. 

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada says the number of job vacancies climbed 3.2 per cent in June, with employers actively seeking to fill 1,037,900 positions. The job vacancy rate, which measures the number of vacant positions as a proportion of all positions (vacant and filled), was 5.9% in June, matching the record-high rate reached in September 2021 and up from 4.9% in June 2021. 

Siemens from Elmer's had this to say about what they are looking for in the hiring process. 

"When hiring people, in addition to technical skills, we're looking for people that are reliable, solutions oriented, positive, and energized by change and growth. Elmer's has been rapidly growing the last number of years, and it comes with frequent change, so it requires people to be adaptable to come along with that change, but it also comes with new opportunities to support that growth." 

A positive attitude toward work also made the list Friesen from Meridian is looking for, in addition to a desire to put in a full day's work, and to contribute to a quality product while working with a team. 

While the current labour shortage has had little effect on Elmer's, Siemens notes the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program and employee referrals, stating they feel appreciated and respected, as the reason for filling the positions available as they open.  He said a focus on workplace culture, making it a place people want to come to work at, plus a physical expansion to the business, has allowed them to create a climate-controlled welding environment, as well as a new lunch room and offices. 

Friesen said "treating people like people" has helped them keep their competitive edge, working to create a welcoming, safe and engaging team environment through clear communication, no matter the language, and continuous learning and relationship.   

She commented on the effects of the labour shortage at Meridian. 

"Just like everybody else, it impacts our ability to grow, but it also has impacted our suppliers, which does require employees to be a little bit more adaptable to the change during our assembly process and things like that, when parts might not be available from suppliers. It's added a bit more challenge to your standard labour shortage issues. It has also increased our need to cross-train employees, which is a long-term benefit, but it can also require our production leadership to balance many different changing priorities, but I know that our employees are up to that challenge." 

Eric Lai, moved from Hong Kong to Canada in June of 2022.  He holds a Masters Degree in Social Work, and was eager to find a job and settle into Morden with his wife and two young boys.   

He first applied for jobs where his skills would be best suited and was interviewed.  He prepared for them by researching the companies late into the evenings, and coming with a knowledge of their work and how he could benefit them with his set of skills and know-how.  Unfortunately, he shared, he was unsuccessful in his efforts, sharing some of his understanding of cultural practices and slang terms were reasons he needed to gain more experience in Canada before being selected for the positions in Social Work. 

He was grateful for the opportunities to interview, and expressed his appreciation for the learning experience.  He has since found a job at Triple E as a Saw Operator, based on a relative's referral as a great place to work. He agrees, describing the difference in safety protocols in place to help him feel appreciated.  

Lai reflected on what he was used to in Hong Kong, and while questions were asked about safety, little was often done after the feedback had been given. 

"They don't talk, they implement, and carry out.  The supervisor will ask me about safety, every day in the briefing section. They don't just ask your opinion; they will make improvements. That is quite amazing, because I never believed your factory could run like that." 

Lai had to get a second job to gain experience in his field of expertise.  He works evenings caring for vulnerable people and he is happy to do it, with plenty of support from his wife who encourages him to follow his dreams.  

He has advice for those looking for a job. 

"The most important thing for a job seeker is to be honest with yourself, be honest with your employer, be honest with the job you are looking for. I think my sincere and honest attitude would let the interviewee know more about me, and they will get me on board or not." 

Lai suggests setting goals and working towards them, but enjoying the journey along the way. He empowers newcomers to the area not to worry about the job search, to keep the past in the past, and to know the work one does belong to this area and the community.  He added, people in the Pembina Valley, are nice and want to help you. 

For more information on the Regional Connections Job Fair in September and for a full list of participating employers, click here. Regional Connections Employment Services are for everyone in Canada, including newcomers and all area residents.