By Dan Walton
A job fair last week at SenPokChin School was a fitting event for Chief Clarence Louie to speak about the Osoyoos Indian Band’s economic endeavours.
“I feel so proud when I see non-native people living on my reserve and working on my reserve,” he said before a crowd of a few dozen in the school gym on March 16.
Louie was steadfast about the encouragement of good jobs in the community.
He said the noise coming from race cars at Area 27 Motorsport Park, which has been only open for a few months, has generated some complaints. Louie admitted that silence is preferable, but “giving you peace and quiet doesn’t provide jobs for my people.”
Also, Louie wants the community to have a good relationship with the affluent members of Area 27. Those who can afford race cars are likely to be connected to lucrative business networks, which Louie wants to “tap into.”
In the interest of future generations, “it’s worth a little bit of noise,” he said.
Beyond the activities at Area 27, Louie was proud to boast that 30 local employers were offering more than 500 full and part-time positions at the job fair. The wide range of positions was largely centred around agriculture, hospitality and industry.
Five positions were up for grabs through the Lakeside Resort in Oliver. Assistant manager Cory Vandervoort said she was interested in recruiting students or recent grads, preferably applicants who could offer longevity. The turnout at the job fair was much better than she had expected.
According to employment advisor Carly Ottie with Open Door Group, the subcontractor for WorkBC that organized the event – the job fair saw the best turnout in years. In 2016 there were two job fairs, one in Oliver and one in Osoyoos. By combining the two into one event for 2017, there was a much richer concentration of opportunity.
For people entering or re-entering the workforce, a job fair is a great place to gauge their skills as applicants, Ottie said. The team at Open Door Group was on hand to help people realize which technical and transferable skills they already possess and additional training opportunities are always available through WorkBC.
Angela Moreau, an office administrator with CFP Consolidated Fruit Packers Ltd, was looking to recruit 30 to 50 cherry sorters for the upcoming season.
“This community has a lot of talent,” she said. “We live in a fruit community so these people know quality.”
Moreau predicts that cherry season will begin early July this year, judging by the long winter. The work will be long hours in a short period, lasting for approximately 10 weeks.
Within the first hour, Moreau already had resumes she was excited to go through and said her team was willing to make some hires that day.
“We’re very impressed with the turnout,” she said.
Maegen Duursma, a 19-year-old job seeker at the fair, said she was gaining confidence and practice speaking with employers. She initiated several professional conversations, and she recalls speaking to one particular employer “felt natural, almost like we already knew each other.”
After exposing herself to the job fair, Duursma was surprised to see how much employment opportunity there really is in the area. For now, she would like to find work that allows her to help others in some way, and eventually she hopes to get involved in the fashion industry, with a dream of one day owning a boutique in London, England.
In an effort to reduce the number of job openings that go unfilled, WorkBC has assistance and subsidy programs to help employers “recruit, retain and train” people who would otherwise be underqualified, according to employment advisor Kendi Clearwater.
Clearwater says WorkBC is “very pleased with the relationship” the Osoyoos Indian Band has with the local business community.