By Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

Losing access to the federal Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program because the local rate of employment is below the national average has challenged many Columbia Valley businesses in the hospitality industry, and the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce (CVCC) has wasted no time looking for new solutions.

There are a number of issues around it and a variety of solutions, said Susan Clovechok, CVCC executive director.

The chamber hosted two Workplace Planning sessions this month, which explored separate methods for luring workers into the valley.

On Tuesday, February 10th, Diamond Global, a company specializing in recruitment, presented their new Mobilize program to members of the local business community. Instead of recruiting help from abroad, Mobilize attracts Canadians under the age of 30 from regions with high unemployment, and commits them to one year of work in various parts of the country.

They need jobs and we need staff, so its a good fit, Mrs. Clovechok said. Its unfortunate that (the Mobilize) program didnt exist at the same time (as the TFW).

She said that if the program works as intended, Mobilize will cost employers less than the TFW program. Where theres a will to be successful, it will be successful.

Mobilize may be introducing seasonal workers to the valley as soon as May, she said.

On Thursday, February 19th, the second Workforce Planning session was held to educate how attracting foreign workers is still a possibility, but on a less temporary basis than before. Local employers were told how to take advantage of Citizen Immigration Canadas new Express Entry system, which fast-tracks an immigrants application in certain industries.

Mrs. Clovechok suspects the Express Entry program was launched as a result of the changes made to the TFW program.

And while Mobilize and Express Entry are expected to offer some relief, the chamber is continuing to explore additional alternatives.