P.E.I. Tourism operators looking to fill 800 positions through job fairs

Christine McQuaid, owner of Blue Mussel Café talks to Didi Kenny about serving and managerial positions at the 2021 Tourism Job Fair in Charlottetown. Flossie Mbiriri photo.

By Flossie Mbiriri

April 20, 2021

Jaelyn Power was looking for a second part-time job for the summer break.

So she volunteered as a hostess at the 2021 Job Fair organized by the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. (TIAPEI).

“I was looking for a hostess job in a restaurant,” she said.

“I applied in five or six places. They were all very approachable, I wasn’t nervous going to talk to anybody.”

A few hours after the job fair, Power received a call from the owner of Blue Mussel Café. She was hired.

“I was really excited. I know other people that work there, and they love it,” said Power.

The eighteen-year-old was among more than 600 job seekers who attended the 19th fair held at Charlottetown Delta Hotel on April 17.

The fair is an annual event organised by the industry association to give job seekers, students, employers, training institutions and government agencies a place to network.

Planning the fair during the pandemic had many uncertainties. When they started planning it, they didn’t know businesses would want to come to it, said Debbie Mol, the fair coordinator.

“Are we going to have an Atlantic bubble? Is it going to be opened to Canada? How many people are we going to get?”

However, there was a lot of interest from the businesses. Forty companies representing 80 businesses attended the fair, looking to fill more than 800 positions.

The owners of Blue Mussel Café and Slay Maker & Nichols have attended job fairs in the past. This year, they had about 10 jobs to fill, from bartenders to managerial positions.

“We always find between five to 10 employees at the job fair,” said Christine McQuaid, owner of the café.

“We find it valuable to come here and do the day.”

Unlike in previous years, where businesses could hire on the spot, they couldn’t this year due to time constraints from COVID-19 restrictions, allowing only 50 people in one ballroom.

“We didn’t want them to have people at their booth for a long time and wanted them to move along,” said Mol.

“They were getting them to fill out applications, but there are some that did hire.”

One business that previously hired on the spot is Tim Hortons, which this year had 30 open positions.

“We used to be three people at the stand,” said Michael Taweel, the director of operations.

“I would interview someone outside and hire on the spot.”

Mol said when the industry association started hosting the job fair on the weekends instead of weekdays in 2016, the quality of job seekers has improved.

“The businesses were very pleased with the turnout this year, and the quality of people that came.”

Sherry Yan is a 29-year-old master of education graduate at UPEI and a Fundamental Arts student.

She was looking for a job related to her interest in pastry.

“I hope in the future I can be a pastry chef. For now, I’m just looking for a job to contribute my ideas, my experience and knowledge.”

The job fair also attracts teenagers and students.

Emily Press and Elisha Cameron are 14-year-old Grade 9 students at East Wiltshire Intermediate School.

They were excited about their first experience looking for work.

“We came here thinking it would be pretty hard finding a job, since we are only 14 years old,” said Press.

“Everyone was really nice, they gave us a lot of options, especially for our age limit.”

The teens were interested in part-time, seasonal summer jobs.

“We’re going to be pretty busy in the summer and don’t want to miss all of our time at the job,” said Cameron.

“We play summer soccer and don’t want to miss all of our soccer,”

The fair is held in two locations on P.E.I. every year, Charlottetown and Cavendish. In 2020, the Cavendish job fair was cancelled because of COVID-19. In previous years, exhibitors paid $100 for a booth at the fair. This year they participated at no cost.

The next job fair will be May 15 in Cavendish.