3 Edmonton businesses explain why they're hiring during a pandemic

As the spread of COVID-19 continues to devastate Alberta’s economy, forcing many employers to lay off thousands of workers, some companies have the opposite problem: not enough staff to handle more business.

Postings for grocery store workers, cooks, truck drivers and health-care aides populate Edmonton job boards, but hiring managers say applicants will have to contend with virtual interviews and tight competition for temporary jobs. 

Online sales helping some retailers

Homes Alive Pets, which operates pet supply stores in Edmonton and Lethbridge, recently hired a dozen new employees and needs more to fill positions in customer service and web operations.

A recent spike in online sales is behind the company’s expansion, said marketing director and co-owner Evan Ropp.

“We have seen an overwhelmingly dramatic shift online,” he told CBC News.

We have seen an overwhelmingly dramatic shift online.– Evan Ropp, co-owner of Homes Alive Pets

The jobs at the family-run business are temporary but could extend to permanent positions, he added.

“The reality is positions are temporary because we don’t know how this is going to play out and that’s where a lot of businesses are at. They just don’t know what the next day, the next week, the next month has in store.”

Not all staff returning to child-care jobs

The Alberta government ordered child-care centres to close earlier this month to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but some centres have been allowed to re-open to help essential service providers, starting with health-care workers.

Kepler Academy plans to hire early childhood educators to work at three re-opened Edmonton centres.

Three Kepler Academy child-care centres in Edmonton have re-opened, but not all of the company’s staff members can return to work. (Jennifer Begin/Kepler Academy)

Not all existing staff will return to work at those centres, according to Jennifer Begin, the company’s people and culture manager, since many are not in a position to work during the pandemic.

Begin anticipates no problems filling the vacancies. Within hours of the posts going up, she was already fielding many applications.

Nurses needed, not just in hospitals

Scott Voisey, a franchise partner with Nurse Next Door in Edmonton, said he has seen a small increase in demand for home services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The company provides at-home care to children and adults, including people with disabilities and people with terminal illnesses.

Nurse Next Door is hiring in Edmonton as it prepares for more demand for at-home health care. (Nurse Next Door)

Demand has surged for the company’s services in British Columbia and Ontario, Voisey said, so he is currently hiring to prepare for a similar increase in Edmonton.

“We’re expecting to see an influx of clients as Alberta Health Services moves to more essential service,” he said.

Job interviews move online

With local job fairs cancelled and in-person interviews off the table due to physical distancing rules, companies are quickly digitizing each step of the hiring process.

Voisey said his franchise is fast-tracking the system, without skipping criminal record and reference checks.

“A process that may have taken a week a month ago, we’re trying to do it in 48 hours,” he said.

At the Kepler Academy, Begin expects the coronavirus to change how businesses hire and connect with customers in the long term. The company is currently digitizing all of its on-boarding paperwork processes.

“I think it will be a great exercise in forcing us to use our technology more,” she said. 

How to stand out among thousands

With so much demand for few positions, it’s a difficult time for people entering the job market.

“Now would not be a good time to be too picky about the type of work,” said Ropp, who said Homes Alive is increasingly relying on referrals. Many current employees know people who are job hunting and who do not need to self-isolate, he said.

Kathleen Johnston, a career coach and counsellor in Edmonton, stressed the importance of networking as well.

“People who are job searching need to tap into their career connections,” she said.

“That’s where the jobs are, that’s where the leads are, even in our high tech world.”

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