A desperate childcare situation has prompted unique measures in Tofino.
The district is advertising a full-time permanent position at its Community Children’s Centre and is offering to pay for the successful applicant’s education at Port Alberni’s North Island College campus as well as their housing costs for the duration of that education, provided they make a five-year commitment to Tofino.
The deadline to apply for the opportunity is Aug. 5.
“For our community of parents with children in need of daycare, it’s a desperate situation,” mayor Dan Law told the Westerly News.
North Island College’s Early Childhood Care & Education Certificate program runs for 10 months and has a tuition fee of $5,185. A Housing Needs Assessment conducted for the Alberni Valley in February 2021 suggests the median monthly rent in 2020 was $802.
Law said covering the tuition as well as housing costs for the needed employee “is quite bearable.”
“This is reasonable, it’s attainable and in my mind it’s economically viable,” he said. “I think that training present employees or expanding our local knowledge base is a great idea, I think that makes a lot of sense on many different levels…I don’t see this necessarily as a precedent that the district is going to choose to offer education for every position that we have a difficult time filling.”
He noted Tofino has long-struggled to staff its children’s centre, but the past few months have seen a catastrophic shortage of staff, forcing the facility to cut its hours.
“It just became a critical situation and the community made it very clear that the daycare needed prioritizing and I agreed with that,” he said. “We had a tremendous amount of feedback from local parents and businesses as well, the daycare is an essential service, it affects the whole community. It’s not just parents, it affects everybody. It affects every aspect of our community when people can’t find adequate daycare, they can’t go to work, they can’t run their businesses properly.”
He added that the private sector cannot be expected to solve the crisis because, while demand is high, rising housing costs put potential profit margins in question.
“It just becomes impossible for private enterprise to do it and make a profit,” he said.
“It doesn’t make sense economically, it has to be subsidized somehow. That’s just a reality and a growing reality…The district can do this and do it successfully and make it work. This is going to work.”
He added the town’s lack of housing is a hurdle all local businesses face in attracting staff.
“Everybody is having a hard time with staffing and the daycare is in there with all the other businesses trying to find great long term staff and part of that is just a lack of housing,” he said.
“Tofino is getting more and more expensive to live and harder to access housing that is affordable or attainable. We just have a lack of affordable and attainable housing for everybody. We’ve got booming businesses, it’s a great economy, everybody wants to live here. We’ve got a significant amount of people that want to live here and they have significant resources and so the prices of housing are going up and we’ve got the lack of available rental housing. It’s critical. As Tofino becomes more and more popular and more expensive and, in a sense, more successful economically, it’s just very difficult to get these types of jobs filled.”
He acknowledged that the successful applicant will not have their housing paid for when they arrive in Tofino after completing their education, but noted that work is underway to make housing more attainable.
“Hopefully, we’re going to entice somebody who is already living here, who has housing, who wants to advance their career, who wants to get the training and who wants to do the job,” he said. “Going forward long term, the district is going to have to find a way to prioritize and create available housing for essential services like the daycare. This is one way in trying to get somebody who is already here possibly, or who has housing, to get trained and move into this secure, full time job. The district is also working at other ways to establish essential service housing.”
He pointed to the district’s affordable housing projects at Sharp Road and District Lot 114 and said talks are ongoing with the Tofino Housing Corporation towards finding other solutions for supplying essential service housing.
“The district realizes that these essential services are just that, essential, and we’re going to have to try to find ways to keep the housing prioritized,” he said.
He added the provincial and federal governments have roles to play in combating the growing child care concerns.
“It’s a local critical issue, but it’s also a provincial and federal issue,” he said. “Really, in many ways, our local issues are reflected provincially and federally as well. It’s just that in Tofino there is really nowhere to hide. If there is no daycare here, there is just no daycare. Whereas in other places there is always somebody somewhere who can possibly pick up the slack.”
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