A reader writes about staffing challenges

Andy Adams

May 21, 2024

First, I want to stop and acknowledge the very serious wildfire situation our readers in B.C. and the Prairies are already facing this spring. As I write this, Fort Nelson is under evacuation order because of an out-of-control blaze north of the city that’s advancing south quickly. Fort Nelson is a town of about 3,000 people. The Globe & Mail on Tuesday, May 14 wrote that Canadian fire officials have warned that this season could be even worse than last year, when a record 18.5 million hectares of land was scorched and wildfires forced the evacuation of about 230,000 people. I am certain that all Canadians are concerned for this terrible situation and the losses people will suffer.

I received a very interesting email from Marsha McGruer at Philbrooks Boat Yard in Sidney, B.C., who responded to last week’s Editor’s Message titled, The price of being in a “people” business.

Canada now seems to have both a record number of new immigrants searching for employment and housing, yet we regularly hear about industries who are experiencing labour shortages. Could our own government be a roadblock? Here is Marsha McGruer’s letter sharing her experiences at Philbrooks and responding to the letter I had received from a Boating Industry Canada reader in Cuba who wants to immigrate to work in our boat business.

Marsha wrote:
“Have you ever tried to locate one of ‘our’ jobs in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) database https://noc.esdc.gc.ca/Search/QuickSearchJobTitleResults
When you type in ‘marine service technician’, you get:
72423 – Motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle and other related mechanics
When you type in ‘marine mechanic’, you get:
21301 – Mechanical engineers
And if you type in just ‘boat’, you get a list that at least includes ‘boat propeller repairer’ as a matching job title under 73209 – Other repairers and services and you eventually get to 72999 – Other technical trades and related occupations and 72429 – Other small engine and small equipment repairers
I have not been able to find any description that actually includes working on recreational mid-range boat/yachts to approximately 150’ or so, that have diesel engines, substantial communication, navigation, water, heating systems aboard.  We are not shipyards, but we are also not working on small gas outboards.
The problem is to bring in people from outside Canada, you usually have to prove there is absolutely no one available for the positions, then you can start to see how you can get someone to qualify for an expedited entry.
If you are not hiring into the health services, it becomes more difficult to qualify.  To apply for an Express entry via the Federal Trades program, you go to:
But again, you have to locate the NOC that the position fits into and we don’t have one that covers the scope of what we do.  We (Philbrooks Boat Yard in Sidney, B.C.) actually had a mechanical engineer from the Middle East working for us for a while, but we did not qualify to satisfy the entry requirements even though he was working on/servicing relatively large diesel engines, and doing basic yacht repair and maintenance of all the systems aboard.  Boat repairs, maintenance and refits fall within many categories in bits and pieces.
Considering Canada has such an incredibly long coastline, with so many recreational vessels (and not all small runabouts), you would think we would be a recognized industry.” – Marsha McGruer

Could it be that the government’s failure to list, or properly recognize employment in the recreational boating industry, is at the root of our labour shortages? Surely, we should be able to get this impediment removed by working through our industry associations and with our local Members of Parliament.

I certainly want to learn more about this and I thank Marsha McGruer for sharing her knowledge here.

Wishing you all a great start to boating season 2024!

Andy Adams – Editor

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