It’s no surprise that the valley’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism. What might come as a surprise to some is how many employees at our area resorts and attractions are themselves tourists.
Some might be young people trying to live the dream in the Rockies after graduating from high school. A few will fall in love with the valley, find long-term opportunity and stay. But the majority will be moving on within a year.
That’s why, as one local business owner argues, temporary foreign workers are needed to keep the local economy supplied with a base of skilled workers.
As much as we’d like to hire local and keep Canadian kids employed, the reality is that many of them are content to travel for a few years, before going to school — or travelling to northern regions of the country where they can make ridiculously good money in the oil and gas industry with little education.
There are few reasons for young Canadians to stay within the realm of limited earnings potential offered by a career in hospitality or tourism. But many overseas workers crave the stability of a job in Canada, which gives them an opportunity to remit money home to their families. And from an employer’s point of view, there’s some guarantee that months of training won’t go to waste when an employee decides to set sail.
Having to rely on workers from other countries to fill out local jobs isn’t ideal of course, and one could argue it’s a legitimate downside to free trade deals and globalization. Parents working across the globe from where their families reside can also be a strained situation.
But when local people are simply not abundant enough to fill the jobs being offered, there’s little choice but to go further afield.
Perhaps a higher minimum wage, if introduced gradually enough to allow businesses to absorb the change, could prove to be a long-term solution. Until then, we’re likely to keep finding local restaurants and hotels well-staffed with foreign workers.