ArmchairMayor.ca is accepting submissions from by-election candidates. Please keep them to 550 words or less, and include a photo.
Dear Kamloops: we need more jobs. That is unequivocally clear.
I moved to Kamloops almost six years ago because I unexpectedly fell for the place. Seeking a happy medium between Vancouver (too big, too expensive, too rainy) and Dawson City, Yukon (too small, too isolated… and those winters), Kamloops seemed a great place to settle.
I chose it over Kelowna, Salmon Arm and Vernon; I was wooed by the weather, the walkable downtown core with its quaint shops and cafes, and the pitch of an old friend who had moved here with her family.
I’d lived in many cities before and had always prided myself on being employable. My work experience has included everything from cleaning rooms and slinging baked goods to fundraising and writing for tech companies. Surely there would be a job in Kamloops for me.
Two months later, I had applied for over 40 jobs – everything from reception at a podiatrist clinic to a gig at the library – each with a carefully crafted cover letter. I had several interviews. Nothing panned out.
It would be another month before I found a part-time job in retail, and another three months yet until I was hired to manage the Kamloops Arts Council – the stroke of luck I needed at the right time, the assurance I could stay in the city I’d chosen.
Not everyone is so lucky.
The unemployment rate in Kamloops is 7.7%, 2% higher than the provincial average.
At the same time, employers are reporting a skilled labour shortage in Kamloops – more engineers, urban planners and tradespeople are needed.
What we seem to have in Kamloops is an odd mismatch: local job-seekers who don’t have the qualifications for the jobs available, and businesses unable to find the workers they need.
There are solutions to this. It’s going to take time and coordination.
Jobs don’t happen in a vacuum. If we’re going to create more jobs, we need to support small business, the backbone of the Kamloops economy.
We need to create more educational and vocational training opportunities, and perhaps even hiring subsidies, so that locals don’t need to go to Vancouver or Kelowna for training (sometimes never to return), and companies can find the skilled labour they need.
Let’s also be intentional about expanding industries like tech, film, tourism, education and agriculture, food and wine — industries that will both take us into the future and create more jobs.
What can be done at the City Council level to make these things happen? Increasing liveability through things like better transit and more attractions are two practical examples of the things entrepreneurs and companies are looking for (in fact, Amazon is now looking for a place to relocate its headquarters, and transit and liveability are at the top of their list).
The city of Stratford, Ontario reinvented itself as a tech-sector hotspot by installing free wifi throughout the town.
To be clear, diversifying our economy doesn’t mean shunning what came before it. Resource-based industries are a part of Kamloops’ heritage. I honour that, even as I invite our city to take its next steps.
It won’t happen overnight. It’s going to take time, and chances are it won’t be simple. But with a clear vision and steady effort, I know we can do it.