As the shortage of skilled trades professionals continues to prove problematic for Canadian employers, a variety of solutions is being sought, incorporating both short and long term options.
Earlier this year Canadian Business magazine forecast a shortage of between 22,000 to 32,000 skilled workers in Northern British Columbia alone and the province last year announced the BC Jobs Plan which aims to attract more skilled workers into the region.
While this is a long-term plan which is already showing signs of success, short-term issues require attention. One of the potential solutions already adopted by some Canadian employers is the use of FIFO (fly-in-fly out) workers to resolve short term gaps in the labor market. In Australia for example, FIFO workers comprise over 40% of the workforce in some mining companies.
While the employment of FIFO workers has been traditionally associated with the mining, oil and gas sectors, other sectors affected by the shortfall in skilled workers, such as food and manufacturing, will derive several benefits:-
Advantages of a FIFO Workforce
- Companies can forecast and manage overheads more effectively, recruiting workers into the roles where and when the need is most acute.
- Seasonal peaks and troughs in recruitment are managed appropriately.
- FIFO workers are ideal for remotely based projects where long-term relocation would not be a viable option due to living conditions.
- Temporary infrastructure costs, such as housing, are minimized through the use of FIFO workers.
- Experienced FIFO workers will be familiar with the nature of the lifestyle and able to quickly adapt to their new environment.
- Skilled workers in FIFO jobs are more focused on their environment.
- On project completion, FIFO workers can be transferred to other skilled jobs, reducing the potential oversupply of workers.
- FIFO workers are fully trained and qualified skilled workers, leading to a reduction in company training costs.
- For employers deterred by FIFO workers due to the legal requirements and potential learning curve, a reputable staffing vendor is a further cost effective option. By outsourcing the whole process to a specialist company, the employer can focus on growing the business.
Responsibilities of the Employer
While FIFO workers are on site, the employer is responsible for the provision of suitable accommodation, recreational and catering facilities.
Issues to Consider
The allure of FIFO roles for employees is predominantly the typical higher salaries on offer, coupled with a flexible lifestyle.
Due to the nature of that lifestyle, however, concern has been expressed over the long-term physical and psychological effects on both the employee and their families. In particular, Safety Solutions, Australia has identified concerns over the impact on sleeping patterns and poor sleep quality, together with the lack of recreational facilities and poor nutritional options.
Employers can play their part in attracting more skilled trades workers into the FIFO sector by improving accommodation standards and providing reliable online facilities coupled with options such as Skype for regular contact with families back home. In addition, improved health and lifestyle initiatives and flexible rosters have been recommended.
When managed properly, the employment of FIFO workers into skilled trades positions can form part of a long-term recruitment strategy, particularly in the light of the skills shortage affecting the Canadian economy.