While the national job scene has shifted monumentally since Covid arrived in Canada, most employers in Kingston remain confident that they can attract workers and entrepreneurial talent to the city. Even if all other considerations are equal, they believe that Kingston’s quality of life and its easy access to Toronto, Montreal and U.S. tip the balance in their favour.
Kings Distributed Systems CEO Daniel Desjardins says he is seeing a reverse brain drain as he adds computer engineers and mathematicians to his growing staff from Silicon Valley, Waterloo and Toronto. “It’s about lifestyle,” he says. “And the water [Lake Ontario].”
Octane Medical CEO Tim Smith receives two or three unsolicited resumes a day from scientists and researchers around the world who recognize the potential of his company’s advances in regenerative medicine.
“When they’re applying to work for us, they’ve already accepted Kingston.” After 39 years of helping people find jobs in Kingston, Michael Harris, Executive Director of KEYS, a publicly funded employment office with 90 staffers, believes that the Covid crisis will increase Kingston’s appeal.
“People have paused due to Covid to reconsider their career options,” he says. “They’re retraining and retooling.” He believes people may be adjusting their careers and lifestyle but are not abandoning the workforce.
Sandra Carlton, VP of Human Resources at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, is responsible for about 7,300 Kingston jobs and knows the challenges of health care recruiting but she believes in the pull of the city. “There are a lot of attractions to living here,” she says. “And with the presence of high-tech, government, health care, the universities and college there are good job prospects for spouses, partners and adult family members.” She is quick to point out that hospitals also hire IT, finance, HR and environmental service workers.
Sandra also believes that Kingston is becoming more culturally diverse thanks to its post-secondary institutions and the presence of CFB Kingston’s large military population.
KEYS’s Michael Harris echoes her observation. “Kingston is much more diverse… it’s reaching a critical mass that has new communities becoming established.” KEYS now has 18 Arabic speaking staff members and has helped settle 500 international refugees in the past five years.
KEYS works with hundreds of employers a year to source workers, offering cost-free job fairs, social media promotions and specialty recruiting programs such as a dual career project that helps find jobs for spouses.
Glenn Bostock, owner of office pod manufacturer SnapCab, says what he really wants to find in Kingston are good people.
“We’re careful with who we hire,” he says about building a community of workers. “We can teach skills. We really look for people who know how to get along,”