A post-pandemic job fair: $1,000 signing bonuses, but workers have their own priorities

If you’re looking for a job in Quebec, you’re in luck. You can probably work in almost any sector you choose, if you’re willing to get trained.

A job fair opened today at the Palais des Congrès and highlighted the pressing labour shortage in the province, and the lengths employers will go to to hire -- as well as workers' new priorities, with salary not at the top of the list.

Nine thousand positions were on offer by 200 companies, everything from building earth-friendly coffins in Victoriaville to working at a gym or a wireless company or a hotel.

Many employers were optimistic.

“We’re in fitness, and after the pandemic, I think everyone wants to work in the industry,” said Joseph Raad, who was at the fair representing World Gym.

But the reality is that a lot has changed in the last two years, and it’s still anyone's guess what trends will show up among workers, many of whom are returning to the job market after spending the pandemic away, whether at school, on benefits, taking care of family or some combination.

It isn’t only employers reconnecting in big numbers. Job-seekers also lined up, declaring themselves happy with the amount of choice and saying they wanted to be picky about a few things.

“I would like to have insurance,” said Darlene Clement, who has worked in the health sector and said she wants to return there. “Salary is important, but some kind of medical insurance.”

More white-collar jobs were also available, attracting high-level engineering grads.

Exhibitors did a survey, revealing that most candidates seem to be asking about work-life balance.

“The salary, the money, is not the first choice for choosing a company,” said Eric Boutie, the president of Événement Carrières.

“They would like to have a company with a good quality of life, opportunies, friends. Very different from the old generation.”

It was clear it was not the job market anyone was used to: employers offered $1,000 signing bonuses, cash incentives for referring friends, flexible hours and work-from-home arrangements.

The important thing these days is finding motivated people, explained Tania Sarkissian, a regional director for OSL customer service firm.

“We want people that are passionate, that love sales, that are motivated by obtaining targets and making money and serving customers and giving them a great experience,” she said.

The job fair continues in person on Friday and then, true to 2021, goes online.

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