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City faces critical staffing shortage

Brandon City Hall

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Brandon City Hall

The City of Brandon is having difficulty filling vacant positions across the organization, following a number of retirements.

Scott Hildebrand

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Scott Hildebrand

Just in the first quarter of 2014, 17 city staffers either retired or quit. In addition, city manager Scott Hildebrand says there are approximately 100 people eligible to retire through the "Rule of 80."

"We’ve started succession planning and starting to think more about the future in the last couple years, but there’s a lot of things happening, a lot of change happening," Hildebrand said.

"We have an aging demographic ... I think people are deciding that retirement is right for them right now, which leaves us in a tough spot.

"For the most part, staff are good about planning with us and working with us on the timing, but some surprise you as well."

The engineering department, in particular, has seen a lot of change lately. Both the former director of engineering and manager of construction design have recently retired, with more senior-level positions expected to retire in the near future.

"One of our biggest priorities right now is engineering and as luck would have it, engineering right now across Western Canada is probably one of the hardest positions to fill," Hildebrand said.

"So we’re having to look farther than we’ve ever had to look. We’ve advertised all across Canada, in the U.S. … so we’re finally starting to get some traction."

The operations department, which includes parks, streets and roads, has also seen quite a bit of movement.

"It’s a bit of a domino effect as people move around internally," Hildebrand said. "We also got to make sure we’ve got the right leadership and the right managers in place."

Longtime city clerk Con Arvisais will be retiring this spring, which will be a major change in that department.

The city has a vacancy management committee that assesses the situation whenever a manager or a key position leaves the organization.

"We then determine, do we just backfill that position and keep the structure the same or have things change?" Hildebrand said.

Due to the growth the city has seen in the last five years, the city is changing the structure of the engineering department "to actually meet the needs of the community," and that’s what they are looking at in the clerk’s office as well.

The city is also searching for mechanics for its operations department, and as Hildebrand explained, they are finding the city salary isn’t competitive anymore with private business.

"We’re meeting on it this week because we’ve got to find a way to not only attract, but retain the staff that we have," he said.

Another reason the city may lose qualified individuals from outside Brandon is due to a spouse in a specific profession being unable to find work.

The city has started a working group, along with Prairie Mountain Health and the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, to address some of the staffing and recruitment concerns that can be felt across the city.

"We’re going to widen that scope so that when we’re bringing professionals into town, such as engineers or … doctors or nurses that have spouses, that we may have spots for their spouses as they come to Brandon," Hildebrand said. "I think it makes sense working together for things like that."

Chamber general manager Carolynn Cancade said finding skilled labour is the No. 1 challenge facing Brandon businesses.

"What we’re trying to look into is, what are some of the other opportunities that we can leverage, working with our different partners in the city, to mitigate some of the challenges of getting people to come here."

» jaustin@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @jillianaustin

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 24, 2014

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"The city isn't competitive with private business" when paying wages. Does this comment mean the city will raise such wages? Private companies that employ mechanics, electricians and other trades workers make profits, sometimes huge profits. The city cannot compete with wages that private companies pay and no one should expect them to.

Arlene Saito

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The City of Brandon is having difficulty filling vacant positions across the organization, following a number of retirements.

Just in the first quarter of 2014, 17 city staffers either retired or quit. In addition, city manager Scott Hildebrand says there are approximately 100 people eligible to retire through the "Rule of 80."

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The City of Brandon is having difficulty filling vacant positions across the organization, following a number of retirements.

Just in the first quarter of 2014, 17 city staffers either retired or quit. In addition, city manager Scott Hildebrand says there are approximately 100 people eligible to retire through the "Rule of 80."

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