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Employers and Employees can Weather the Storm


EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES CAN WEATHER THE STORMI’m not a fan of the phrase, “economic meltdown”.  It’s an exaggeration of the negative aspects of the current economic climate and, in Chicken Little fashion, ignores all the positives.

Both employers and employees have the opportunity to benefit from the current state of things.  While overall unemployment figures are rising due to workforce cutbacks in certain areas, the situation is not universally bleak.

From the perspective of employers, there is much to appreciate as a result of the present volatility.  If nothing else, the slowing of the economy means that the so-called “labour shortage” must ease.

That means that, when job vacancies occur, there will be a better selection of candidates available.  At least in western Canada, recent times have dictated (for many employers) that they hire almost any warm, and willing, body which happened to come through the door.

That state of things meant that the overall quality of an employer’s workforce declined.  Now that many people will be back in the job market, the number and quality of applicants for job vacancies should skyrocket.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that, just because the overall economy has slowed, there won’t be job openings.  There are always vacancies, in bad times as well as in good.  Employers restructure their operations, they weed out poorer performers, and employees choose to relocate.

Continuing in the same vein, employers may want to look at their current workforce and decide whether, during the tight job market, they hired employees who simply aren’t performing.  Now is the time to do some of that weeding out to take advantage of the sudden availability of better candidates.

All the benefits of the current economic situation won’t accrue only to employers.  Employees, too, can take advantage of the present situation.

While it is true that certain industries are suffering overall shrinkage in their workforce, the same cannot be said for all employers or all employment sectors.  For example, the most recent information released by Statistics Canada indicates that employment in manufacturing grew in December, 2008 (over the prior month).  The same is true for numerous other sectors of the economy, including part-time workers as a group.  These statistics can be located on the Statistics Canada website at

Regardless of the sector in which an employee may be looking for work, volatility means job openings.  And, as mentioned above, wise employers will be utilizing this opportunity to improve the quality of their workforce.  So, even in depressed sectors, opportunities will arise.

Now is the time to demonstrate to employers that you are the kind of person they need to make their business more stable and profitable for the future.  I’ve sometimes characterized that task as one of showing that you are neither a “half glass full” nor a “half glass empty” kind of person – I think employers are looking for “fill the glass” types.

Even for employees whose employment has been negatively affected, troubled times offer fresh opportunities.  Employees who are forced out of their current position should be using this time to upgrade their skills or even to train for an entirely new career.

Now is the perfect time to take that step.  When the economy really picks up again in 18-24 months, you can be well-equipped with a whole new skill set to take advantage of the upswing.

In most cases, employees who have been laid off or terminated will receive either severance pay or Employment Insurance benefits (or both).  Those payments can keep things afloat while a period of re-training or upgrading occurs.

In addition, federal government programs are offered through Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) to support individuals who are seeking training or career support.  The details are too extensive to list here, but the programs include the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant, the Canada Student Loans and Grants Program, Self Employment financial assistance, the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy, the Job Creation Partnerships program, the Skills Development employment program, the Labour Market Partnerships program, and more.

These programs all provide funding for the purpose of creating or encouraging employment in various sectors.  The HRSDC website contains information about all these programs, and more, and can be accessed at

In British Columbia, individuals in a period of transition can (for instance) seek assistance through the Transitional Assistance Program, the Tuition Assistance Program, and the Job Opportunities Program among others.  Information on these programs and others can be accessed at

Employers and employees alike have good reason to view the next 18 to 24 months as a period of opportunity.  The ones who do so will surely come out ahead of the Chicken Littles of the world.

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