Sioux Lookout a hot spot for job opportunities
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
“Sioux Lookout has always had a really robust economy and we currently have 211 jobs posted with our organization. In 2020, we’ve posted 1095 jobs. In a community of 5,500 people, that’s a pretty significant number of positions. So with what is happening within the country and the world, despite COVID, Sioux Lookout has maintained our status-quo in terms of employment opportunities,” said Roxanne Hammond, Program Manager for Sioux-Hudson Employment Services. She added that these numbers are slightly up compared to the pre-pandemic numbers, which is around 170 job postings.
Hammond shared some reasons that she believes are behind the large availability of jobs in the area, with one of the biggest being “that we have an economy within an economy. We have an economy for our municipality and for our population of 5,500 people, which is in the greater Sioux Lookout area. But then, Sioux Lookout is sort of the last stop before you get into the 29 plus fly-in, remote First Nation communities. Our tag line is, ‘The Hub of the North’, and so we provide a wealth of service to all these communities. That’s where our healthy number of job postings and employment availability comes from. The need is higher because we’re serving a higher geographical area. But the people who are in remote geographical areas can’t take these positions because they’re not in the city center.”
The pandemic led to an increased demand in social and health services.
Currently, Sioux-Hudson employment services have 76 positions in social services, that accounts for the sector with the most employment opportunities, shared Hammond. “The second being sales and services, which includes our front-line workers who had to continue to work though the height of the pandemic to ensure that people had all their essentials. The third would be business administration. Of course, when we have a lot of organizations that are providing health, social and education services, it will all come along with administrative tasks,” she said.
“Our trends have remained consistent. This has been really good news for our community and the state of employment and quality of life for the people within our community,” she added. Another reason being, that when people think of Ontario, they traditionally think of the Greater Toronto Area and not of Northwestern Ontario as a potential point of great opportunity.
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout shared, “In 2014, the Municipality established a Labor Market Working Group to develop a strategy to move forward and work together. This process provided a strong communication network. The Economic Development Department has continued to work closely with community organizations and individual businesses seeking assistance with attracting and retaining employees.” The Municipality shared that recently they have been recruited by, and are working with, Lakehead University’s Dr. Kathy Sanderson to assist in attracting new immigrants to rural areas. “Sioux Lookout is a diverse community and perfecting the role of welcoming and inclusion which plays in the success of recruitment and retention of new immigrants. The department has linked Dr. Sanderson and her team with community leaders, employers and new immigrants.”
“I know that our Municipality and our Chamber of Commerce, our Economic Development Officer has been working really hard to promote Sioux Lookout as a place of opportunity for person that are looking to enhance their career, looking to secure their employment. To have opportunities that they otherwise might not have in bigger city centers where there’s a larger amount of competition. Its been a priority for us to get the word out about our community and what a beautiful place it is to live, work, raise your family,” said Hammond. She said that Sioux-Hudson Employment Services is also involved with some projects with immigration services, as well as advertising to newcomers to Canada that maybe Sioux Lookout is somewhere you want to consider putting down roots and that there could be many opportunities here.
Hammond said that there have increasingly been people moving to the community from different backgrounds and locations. “It’s really nice to see that because we’ve always been a community of diversity with our First Nations populations. I think that just to see our community grow in diversity really helps us to continue that trend of being a community that is open to diversity and embraces it.” She added that not only is Sioux Lookout a great hub for job opportunities, but also is a great place for someone who loves being within nature. There are lots of beautiful beaches and outdoor activities like hunting, fishing and boating here. She added that being a small community; there are limited shops and services, which may sometimes result in a higher cost to access goods and services. However, she said that one of the best things about the community is that everyone tends to look out for each other. “We still have that small, intimate community feel,” she said.
The Municipality shared, “The barrier to recruitment is we are still working in silos and thus should work collectively to reduce the cost of recruitment and retention. The major barrier is housing and we have made this a priority and we remain encouraged that we are nearing a resolution to our housing shortage through the aggressive investment attraction of investors and developers rather than relying specifically on the government.”