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Whitehorse architect Mary Ellen Read, founder of Northern Front Studio, acknowledges that the biggest recruitment challenge is its location, but 'if people are assessing their lifestyle, the Yukon is a great answer.'Handout

As Canadian employers emerge from coronavirus pandemic restrictions and ramp up operations, there has been a rebound in new job postings for skilled candidates.

While recruitment activity is not back to the level it was, the recovery “is definitely happening,” says Hays Canada president Rowan O’Grady, whose recruitment firm tracks job listings across the country.

The number of career opportunities for people in highly skilled occupations posted on Canadian staffing agency and employer websites plunged from a pre-pandemic level of 80,000 in early March to 38,000 in the first week of April, Mr. O’Grady says. By the third week of June, new postings had again surpassed the 65,000 mark, with strong demand for full-time employees as well as for part-timers and contract workers in a number of sectors.

It will be an uneven recovery, the Conference Board of Canada noted in a recent report. The air travel, food service and accommodation sectors, for instance, are unlikely to bounce back until well after a vaccine for COVID-19 has been discovered and made widely available. But overall it appears that - after a sharp downturn - economic growth resumed in May, the Conference Board said.

This squares with Mr. O'Grady's field observations, including the following: Yukon-based architecture firm Northern Front Studio hopes to add another architect to its growing practice. Ottawa-based Macadamian Technologies Inc., a software design and development firm in the healthcare field, is scouring for tech talent. Mining company Vale Canada Ltd. is hiring. Alberta-based construction equipment dealer, SMS Equipment Inc., has postings for heavy equipment mechanics, sales specialists and human resources professionals for its operations across the country.

"I just hope it continues, I hope companies continue to feel confident," Mr. O'Grady says.

The big question now is whether the most sought-after candidates - the majority of whom are currently working in other roles - feel confident enough to move. While it would appear to be an employers’ market given the high national unemployment rate, star prospects have a lot of questions before committing to a new employer: how well has the organization strategically positioned itself for recovery; how is it ensuring that employees have the skills to adapt to new challenges and opportunities; and has management philosophy evolved enough to support remote work preferences post-pandemic?

Having experienced the flexibility and autonomy of working from home, current and prospective employees now want the freedom to decide when and where they work best, whether it's at the office, at home or a mix of both, Mr. O'Grady says. In this regard, "the genie is out of the bottle."

Recruiting firm Robert Half Canada has observed similar trends. “When this pandemic started, we saw a lot of orders and contracts put on hold. In recent weeks, we have seen a substantial amount of those contracts brought back and filled,” says Sandra Lavoy, an Ottawa-based regional vice-president with the firm. In a survey of 500 Canadian employees across sectors conducted in mid-May, Robert Half also found that 40 per cent of participants were rethinking their career priorities in terms of work-life balance, while 29 per cent expressed the desire to pursue “a more meaningful or fulfilling position.”

In Whitehorse, architect Mary Ellen Read, founder of Northern Front Studio, acknowledges that the biggest recruitment challenge is its location, but “if people are assessing their lifestyle, the Yukon is a great answer.”

Her posting for a registered architect pitches the growing firm as a place that offers creative and interesting projects, from residential to large institutional projects, and long-term security. Despite the pandemic, “nothing has really slowed down here in terms of construction and infrastructure. We are expanding, and I really need that person,” Ms. Read says.

Northern Front Studio is offering flexible work hours, partnership potential and a rich cultural experience to interested architects. The studio provides free gallery space to community artists and aims to incorporate local artwork into its projects. The recruitment firm, Hays, said in a recent blog post that pandemic has given employees working from home a lot of time to reflect on what’s most important to them, whether it’s more time with family, more stimulating professional challenges or the opportunity to contribute to the community outside of work.

For now, because of travel restrictions, candidates have to settle for video interviews, "unless they want to come up and quarantine for two weeks," Ms. Read says in jest.

“It is a beautiful place. A cabin in the woods wouldn’t be the worst way to quarantine.”

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