With the pulp and paper mill in Fort Frances still shuttered, resulting in the loss of the district’s largest employer, one would think unemployment to be our community’s biggest problem.
Yet that doesn’t appear to be the case these days. Quite the opposite, in fact.
A recent survey conducted by the Rainy River Future Development Corp. indicates there’s a labour shortage here in Rainy River District. And it seems to be right across the board—from manufacturing to the service industry.
What’s difficult to ascertain at this point is what this all means. For instance, job openings that may be part-time—and at minimum wage—definitely won’t appeal to former mill workers or entice people to move here.
A job shortage in other sectors, particularly the skilled trades, is a much different matter. Clearly there is work available, which is a good thing to keep workers here as well as attract new ones. Hopefully, it also means those who already may have left town in search of work can return or, equally important, prompt local residents to pursue the education/training required to fill these jobs.
Perhaps most troubling in all this is the shrinking pool of youths available for entry-level jobs. While the issue of youth out-migration is nothing new here, the situation seems to have worsened of late—whether the result of out-of-work parents moving their families away or a generational shift where young people have “different work habits.”
Whatever the reason, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
On the bright side, dealing with a labour shortage is much better than wallowing in chronic high unemployment. The key now is getting the word out that Rainy River District is an area of growth and potential, not decline.