'It's going to be rough the next five years.'

Iqaluit city hall fights labour shortage


John Hussey has hit upon one way to solve the city of Iqaluit's staffing crunch – work two jobs at the same time.

As both chief administrative officer and director of corporate services, Hussey doubles as both manager of everything and the man who controls the city's purse strings.

It's not a lot of fun "wearing two or three hats at the same time," Hussey admits. Midway through the interview, city clerk Tracy Leschyshyn pokes her head in the room.

Hussey is late for an interview with a job applicant.

Between 10 and 12 per cent of the city's 107 full-time jobs are unfilled, Hussey said. And as Nunavut's booming capital continues to grow, so too will its demand for workers.

"It's going to be rough the next five years," he said.

Iqaluit's lands department is supposed to have five employees. It has two. The engineering and public works departments both saw their directors quit last summer. No one's been hired to replace them.

The city also budgeted to hire a sustainable development coordinator late last year, and that position remains unfilled too.

Hussey said the city recently made some efforts to hire directors of corporate services and engineering, but to no avail.

"The pool of applicants was nil," he said.

Nicole Aylward, the city's human resources manager, says her assistant spends about 95 per cent of her time screening resumés and interviewing job applicants.

"What we've been finding is a little bit more successful is posting on targeted websites," she said.

Need a lifeguard? Advertise on the Lifesaving Society's website. Need an accountant? Post a job with the Chartered Accountants of Canada.

Both Hussey and Aylward said there are plenty of people, especially from Atlantic ­Canada, applying for municipal jobs in Iqaluit.

But the prospective hires are often lured away at the last minute by lucrative jobs in oil-rich Alberta, or discouraged by family members who aren't as enthusiastic about coming to the Arctic.

"That happened to [planning and lands director] Michele [Bertol] three times last year," Hussey said.

"It's hard for municipalities to compete with profit industries."

The city, like the Government of Nunavut, has had trouble filling high-level positions, but Hussey said the problem is working its way down the pay scale, thanks to a continuing boom in mining exploration.

And while an obvious solution to the city's staffing crunch is hiring Inuit workers instead of southern imports, Hussey said that's not as easy as it sounds.

The GN and federal government are also competing against the private sector for Inuktitut speakers and Hussey said many Inuit who have good jobs are staying where they are.

"They're finding work and they're not willing to change their jobs."

Many of the city's employees are also closing in on retirement age.

And, according to the 2006 census, fully one-third of Iqaluit's population is under 20 and too young to enter the workforce, meaning Hussey may have to keep wearing two hats a ­little while longer.

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