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Bow Valley employers looking to fill vacant positions while battling housing shortage


The lure of working in the beautiful Bow Valley is one many people dream of, however, due to the area's housing issues, it can be tough to find employees.

A labour retention report estimates Canmore has a deficit of up to 650 employees.

The Labour Market Recruitment and Retention Strategy points to housing and cost of living as its biggest obstacles.

According to Reinira Lankhuijzen, a career coach at the Banff and Canmore Job Resource centres, with the transitional and seasonal nature of the area, "there will always be lots of jobs available."

"We are seeing a healthy amount of job seekers arriving," said Lankhuijzen.

"Where there is lots of opportunity is in those skilled positions."

One reason she points to for a lack of employees for skilled culinary, mid- to upper-level management positions in hospitality and trades jobs is the lack of housing.

"For those positions, you need a little bit more experience and you need to be a bit more established," said Lankhuijzen.

"People working in those positions might not be interested in working in staff accommodation."

However, for many employers, providing accommodation is a tool to recruit and retain staff.

Kyler Brierly and his wife Lauren own Good Earth Coffeehouse in Banff, providing employment to several baristas.

According to him, the No. 1 challenge for business owners in Banff is staffing, "especially with regards to having housing for those staff."

"It kind of went from not being part of the discussion and now if we have 14 resumes, all 14 of them are going to be asking about housing," he said.

To help address the hundreds of vacant positions in Canmore, there will be a job fair on April 18 at the Malcolm Hotel from 1 to 4 p.m.

On April 24, a job fair will also be held at the Banff Park Lodge from 1 to 4 p.m. to help address summer openings.

In February, the federal government announced more than $4.6 million to support its plan to deal with the ongoing affordable housing crisis.

Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno said the funding was crucial to help address Banff's housing crisis as the town currently has a near zero per cent rental vacancy with a shortfall of 700 to 1,000 homes, according to town staff.

The Banff and Lake Louise Hospitability Association has conducted surveys with former, current and prospective employees.

"The message was really housing is the biggest barrier to retaining and attracting those people," said executive director Wanda Bogdane.

When the association reached out to employers, it found similar answers.

"They actually validated that exact same trend," Bogdane said.

"Sixty-five per cent of employer respondents cited housing scarcity and affordability as their biggest concerns with regards to recruitment and retention."

Bogdane points to the type of housing available.

"There were units for individuals who were here for a seasonal standpoint," Bogdane said.

"Anybody who wanted a couple of bedrooms, who was looking to have a pet, who actually may have a family, they weren't able to actually realize their career aspirations at that time."

Alejandra Sanchez moved to the Bow Valley in 2019, working for a tourism company in Banff and living in Canmore.

"I always said that if I was I was able to get a job that allowed me to afford to live in the mountains, I would move," Sanchez said.

She was only able to afford to live with a bunch of roommates.

Sanchez sees living in the Bow Valley as a double-edged sword, with the area offering "adventures" but coming with a high cost of living.

"During the summer days, after work, go outside for a hike … the traffic jam that I would face would be the herd of elk," she said.

"You have to be prepared to have a lot of roommates and move around a lot, but if you're okay with that, and you just want to have the adventure, then it is definitely an awesome place to go."

Avory McDonald lived in Banff for the summer of 2022 and calls her experience in the town "really great," getting to know people from all around the world.

However, she wasn't prepared to live with numerous people, which she found "exhausting."

While there, she was living with eight people in a staff accommodation unit, paying $24 a day.

She describes the unit she lived in as a basement suite with a kitchen, living room and one shared bathroom between all of them.

"It was overwhelming," she said.

"It wasn't cleaned after someone else had moved out." Top Stories

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