Skilled Workers Find Upside to Downturn

Even in the recession, skilled workers in some areas are still experiencing strong demand, bucking the national trend of major layoff announcements by some employers and a rising unemployment rate.

Workers in manufacturing, construction and natural resources have been hit particularly hard in recent months, but other areas are experiencing an increase in demand. Job hunters need to know where to look, but there are signs of hope in an otherwise uncertain and gloomy time in the job market if workers are willing to make a change.

Don Konantz, founder of the mobile automotive dent repair and paint service Colorworks, says his company expects to grow by 30 per cent in 2009 as people keep their existing cars longer and fix those small dings instead of buying a new car.

"Our business is actually experiencing growth in otherwise difficult times," says Konantz, whose Vancouver-based firm employs about 100 auto body repair specialists across Canada and the U. S., including Calgary.

"For sure, there is an opportunity for people with good skills to come and work for us if they’ve been laid off," he says, adding the firm works closely with SAIT Polytechnic to bring in new, qualified recruits.

When he places a job ad in a Vermont newspaper, he easily gets 25 interested applicants. In markets such as Vancouver or Calgary, he’s lucky to get one qualified applicant.

"In the U. S., if we suggest that we’ve got a position available, there’s lots of people applying, but not necessarily in Western Canada–yet," he says.

While the overall Canadian economy has shed hundreds of thousands of jobs in the last few months, new figures from Statistics Canada also show 31,000 jobs were added in sectors such as education, health care services and social services.

Another area that’s experiencing strong demand, although perhaps not for the reasons people would like, is the area of employment and labour law.

"Now that people are looking to tighten their belts, they are not as prone to walking away from (labour) disputes," says Len Polsky, an employment lawyer with MacPherson Leslie and Tyerman LLP in Calgary. "I see a lot of litigation arising."

Business has shifted away from the corporate-commercial side, which has undergone a downturn in demand, but boosted prospects in areas of employment and litigation. Read full story.


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