University of Guelph's Ridgetown Campus. (BlackburnNews.com file photo)

Comment: Hard To Hire Staff?

Is it really that hard to hire staff in rural Ontario?

Well I don’t know, but it may be, at least according to some of the surveys.

There are a number of them done around the province, and they provide a comparison, and possibly some lessons for those working and hiring staff in rural areas and certainly for those wanting to work in these areas.

The first lesson centres around education. We have been stressing for some time that rural jobs, which by definition include agricultural jobs are not the strong-back weak-mind type that some people mistakenly think of.

In fact, looking at the survey recently completed for Chatham-Kent Ontario, a survey that seems to follow provincial norms, a high school diploma will qualify you for only a quarter of the available jobs.

For the other 75% you need college diplomas, university degrees professional accreditation or a skilled trade.

Most of the agribusiness won’t be surprised at that, many are almost constantly looking for good people to hire. Many offer to help with training and most pay very competitive wages.

We are not sure quite why but rural areas have been losing population in Ontario for years. Is the lure of the big city really all that attractive? Or are we doing something else wrong?

I don’t know for sure. Some people say it’s because we don’t have the amenities that larger centres do, but I’m not sure how much weight to give that.

I do believe there are some misconceptions. Lack of public transportation is a reality, lack of ability to visit areas that have amenities you may want, whether they be art galleries or basketball games are not.

And while people from urban areas may not really think we are rubes and hillbillies, I suspect no one thinks all that much about how smart you have to be to fix a combine, or run a grain-trading company.

There is of course, only so much an area can do to promote itself, to attract new people.

Municipal politicians talk about balancing the tax base with the need to develop amenities, but municipal politicians don’t have much say in health care and how far children have to be bused to get to school, or even, the number spaces available to allow the elderly to live with some level of dignity.

Any community can be in good shape, or not so good shape at any time in many of these areas.

In an area of lower population a small change can make a big difference and, those sorts of amenities are at least as important as galleries and sports teams and it is incumbent on those who ultimately make the decisions on health care, education opportunities and other fundamental needs, to ensure rural areas are not left out.