Sarnia-Lambton is short on cooks.
That’s according to a recent update on the local labour force from the Sarnia Lambton Workforce Development Board.
The news comes after consulting with local employers, tourism officials and food service industry reps, said executive director Shauna Carr.
“There’s just simply not enough cooks in the area,” she said.
It’s so bad, in fact, that some cooks use their days off from their regular job to fill in at other eateries and restaurants, she said.
“Getting people into those positions quickly is proving very difficult because we simply don’t have enough of them,” Carr said.
The reasons likely tie back to the restaurant and food industry itself, she said.
“It’s very transitory.”
Late hours, weekend and holiday shifts, and the fact that many cooks seek to expand their resume and culinary knowledge with a new gig every couple of years are contributing factors, she said.
But the lack of local culinary workers is still unusual given Lambton College’s strong culinary program, she said.
Seeking out why cooks are in short supply in Sarnia-Lambton and figuring out a way to fix that is part of the workforce development board’s strategic plan for the area.
“We want to fine-tune exactly what is missing for those opportunities in Sarnia-Lambton,” Carr said.
That includes creating a profile on the rigours, wages and other aspects people can expect to experience in the job description.
“We try and put these profiles together so that job seekers looking to go into that profession or move through that profession have an accurate understanding of what it looks like to be a cook in Sarnia-Lambton,” she said.
Digital profiles will be posted to the board’s website and other Employment Ontario network sites like the college, Goodwill and others in the Sarnia-Lambton area, she said.
Other profiles in the works include for retail salespeople, registered nurses, transport truck drivers, early childhood educators and mechanical engineering technicians and technologists, she said.
And cooks, she said, are one example of the ‘geographic skills mismatch’ in Sarnia-Lambton.
“What we need here is not skilled trades,” she said. “Obviously we have a long history of amazing skilled trades, so we’re good there.”
Cooks and engineers with three to 10 years’ experience though are in high demand.
Other sectors posting a lot of job notices include in retail sales, accounting and administrative assisting, among others she said.
The development board’s report also notes a Sarnia-Lambton unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent as of June, compared to 7.2 per cent in Chatham-Kent and 9.3 per cent in Windsor-Essex.
Carr said about two per cent of the local labour force are chefs and cooks, which works out to about 1,000 people.