Career paths in the hotel industry

Server Jaimie Krauss is always ready to welcome guests to Edie Rae's Café
Server Jaimie Krauss is always ready to welcome guests to Edie Rae’s Café

By Maureen Latta

In the hotel industry, it’s often feast or famine. Business in the Powell River region fluctuates depending on factors like season, ferry service, and strength of the Canadian dollar.

This summer is sure to be a feast with the Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy (PRISMA) being held in June, and the BC Bike Race and Kathaumixw International Choral Concert scheduled for July. Along with a host of other festivals and celebrations, local happenings are sure to boost the population of Powell River with visitors from far and wide, which means the hospitality industry will be looking to add new workers for a variety of roles.

Hotels, motels, and resorts typically require housekeeping staff, front-desk clerks, night auditors, gardeners, and, for full-service hotels, cooks, servers, dishwashers, bartenders, and banquet staff.

There are positive and negative points to consider when contemplating a career in the hospitality industry. Work is often seasonal and wages are generally lower than in other industries, with many positions starting at minimum wage ($10.25/hour), although unionized hotels offer higher wages (Powell River Town Centre Hotel is the only unionized hotel in town).

Head chamber maid Elizabeth Ickringill makes up the king size bed in The Old Police Station.
Head chamber maid Elizabeth Ickringill makes up the king size bed in The Old Police Station.

On the plus side, the hospitality industry is one of the few that still offers the possibility of working one’s way up in the ranks. The Old Courthouse Inn owner JP Brosseau says his innkeeper (similar to a front-desk clerk) started as a dishwasher. Powell River Town Centre Hotel General Manager Shelley Halliday says one of her front-desk clerks started as a housekeeper. And it’s not uncommon in the industry for front-desk clerks to work their way up to management positions.

For most hotel positions, there’s no need for formal education, although night auditors typically must have bookkeeping and computer experience.

“A lot of the roles depend on attitude and general work experience,” Halliday says. At Town Centre Hotel, in-house training is provided for housekeeping, banquet and dishwashing staff. For positions in the kitchen, as well as bartending and waitering, Halliday looks for previous related experience. Front-desk positions generally require customer-service experience and exposure to the hotel industry.

Brosseau says he looks for a nice smile, good demeanour, and a willingness to learn. “I’m pretty open,” he says. “I like to look at their resumes and make sure they haven’t had six jobs in the past six months. That’s a red flag for me.”

Joan Barszczewski, General Manager of Beach Gardens Resort and Marina, says working with the public can be challenging and hotel staff have to be mature and able to deal with all types of guests and their needs. Housekeepers need to be physically fit and front-desk clerks need to be familiar with computers and good at spelling. “The most important thing is to be personable—it can get you through a lot of different situations,” she adds.

As a marina hotel, Beach Gardens needs dock attendants to handle marina reservations, dispense fuel, answer the telephone, and promote Powell River to boaters. Dock attendants are typically university students on summer break, and Beach Gardens plans to hire three this summer. Barszczewski points out that physical stamina is necessary because attendants have to walk up and down the ramp and work outdoors.

Another plus of hotel work, particularly in smaller establishments, is the variety in workday tasks. As a heritage boutique hotel and café, The Old Courthouse Inn needs staff who are willing to pitch in. For example, everyone takes turns polishing the silver and Sunday waitering staff might be called upon to clean rooms. “It’s like a family business,” says Brosseau, who will have five hotel positions to fill within a few months. “Everybody looks after each other and everybody helps each other out.”

Every hotel has its own niche, which has an effect on what employees can expect. Beach Gardens handles lots of conferences, weddings, and sports groups, which means that staff have to enjoy working with large groups of people. Town Centre Hotel caters to business travellers, which means a steadier stream of business throughout the year resulting in a more stable workforce—no seasonal layoffs and rehires. Town Centre Hotel also has a policy of cross training and advertising new positions internally first. As a unionized hotel, all jobs and hours are awarded according to seniority.

For hotel job openings, check Career Link’s job board and sign up for job alerts at

See BC Tourism Compensation Tables for wages in the hotel industry.

Career Link’s Job Fair: Tuesday March 11, 2014!

Career Link's Job Fair will be held on Tuesday, March 11, 2014: am and pm sessions
Career Link’s Job Fair will be held on Tuesday, March 11, 2014: am and pm sessions

Career Link is excited to host our first ever Job Fair on Tuesday, March 11. This event will be an opportunity for job seekers and employers to meet face to face.

  • Enjoy free snacks, door prizes and light refreshments while engaging with local employers. A variety of business sectors will be attending including, healthcare, food services, recreation, municipal, manufacturing and trades.
  • Anyone seeking the opportunity to meet with local employers to discuss job openings and upcoming vacancies within their companies are encouraged to come into Career Link on Tuesday, March 11 from 10am – 3pm.
  • Brodie D’Angio, one of our employment counsellors, will also be offering a presentation on employment in the Oil and Gas sector for job seekers interested in working out of province or camp work.
  • Attend a pre-event resume brush-up session planned for March 5 (1:00PM-3:00PM)! Visit our workshops page to sign up  or call us to register at 604.485.7958
  • Special drop-in “Gearing Up for Oil and Gas” mini-presentation from 3:00-4:00PM on March 11, too!
  • Booth availability is limited, therefore employers with expected job openings are encouraged to register by February 28 for their two-hour time slot.
Mark your calendars! 
Date: Tuesday March 11, 2014
Times: 10AM – 12 noon and 1PM – 3PM
Where: #103, 4511 Marine Avenue, Powell River, BC
Contact: Rob Hughes

Fort St. John – Labour Market Discussion

By Brodie D’Angio


I recently spoke with the client services coordinator at Employment Connections in Fort St. John.  My hope was to learn more about the Fort St. John labour market and to better understand what makes applicants successful at finding jobs in the area.

Note that I will be holding a special workshop called Gearing up for Oil & Gas on Tuesday, February 25 from 1PM-4PM at Career Link! Register at 604.485.7958 or online. Space is limited for this FREE workshop, so sign up fast!

Fort St. John’s Local Labour Market

  • There is an Oil and Gas industry in Fort St. John, but there are no mining operations.
  • Companies looking at contracts: Rhyason contracting, Continental Pipeline, etc.
  • There are always companies looking for new contracts.
  • The people at Employment Connections have a great deal of knowledge of the local labour market and encourage job seekers to connect with their organization.


  • Site C dam (peak will have 7,000 workers) – going through environmental process (maybe late spring or Fall 2014)
  • Pipeline connecting to Kitimat (Still a politically hot topic, but could be a job producer in the future)

What are some common job openings?  What is in the most demand?

  • Truck drivers – Class 1 (BC driving schools)
  • Heavy Equipment Operators (training link)
  • Trades are in very high demand:
    • Instrumentation, electrical, surveyors, and construction workers for new sites
    • Employers limited on how many apprentices they can hire, because they need a certain ratio of apprentices to journeymen.

What are attributes employers are looking for in low-skilled labourers?

  • Big oil and gas companies (Shell, etc.) will contract out service companies
  • Service companies then hire labourers to build/insulate pipelines, construction, etc.
  • Labourers $18 – $20 to start + overtime (long days)
  • Many labourers are going to get hired for service companies, who often don’t send workers out to camp.
  • Looking for labourers that can be working within a day or two notice – who have gear, tickets, and who can come to orientation sessions.

What about people who are knowledgeable, but may have physical limitations

  • If they have some industry experience they may find themselves a parts person, delivery, or hot-shotting (a private hauler, usually with a 1-ton pickup and a double or triple-axle trailer, who will haul anything anywhere for a premium price)

 Discussion on Medics (a less physically demanding position)

  • Medic on-site: Need Occupational First Aid (OFA) Level 3 + H2S Alive (Hydrogen Sulfide Training). These tend to be more camp related.
  • 12 hours a day at approximately $300/day.
  • Often sitting in a truck waiting for an accident to happen.
  • Met one guy who had been doing it for 5+ years with no incidences.
  • Sometimes includes office admin work, site traffic logging, flagging, etc.
  • This type of work can be boring to some people.
  • Some office administration programs are now including an OFA level 3 component to try and bring all those duties together under one umbrella.

What type of backgrounds/skillset are employers looking for?

  • Class 5 driver’s license & clean drivers abstract (to drive company vehicles)
  • H2S Alive, Occupational first aid level 1, WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System is Canada’s national hazard communication standard)
  • Need Work Gear (approx. $800) – steel-toed, fire-retardant coveralls/jackets (Nomex is one of the main brand employers are looking for)
  • Too many people come with limited work gear (i.e. Warm wear, or just boots, etc.)
  • Employers are willing to give job start emails and accept calls to confirm job offers (for job start funding)
  • Drug tests are required before starting a job here (more information on drug tests and the law here)

Lots of retail jobs available

  • 3+ major stores opening soon – No Frills, Walmart Super Centre, Dollar Tree, etc.
  • Big need to fill retail positions.
  • Typically $13 an hour for retail jobs.
  • Because many of the jobs are non-camp, and people move up to Fort St. John, wives or older family members might end up working in retail to help support the families.

In regards to accommodation/camp

  • People tend to think “I’m going to get camp work in Fort St. John and come down to the Lower Mainland on my days off”.  This mindset is a problem, as many of the jobs here are NOT camp jobs.
  • Also, the jobs that do end up in camp often only provide a few days off.  Not enough time to really fly back home, so many people end up renting locally to have somewhere to stay on those days off.
  • The men’s shelters (Salvation Army) are completely filled up every day with people. There are not a lot of rentals available, but there are some, and rent can be quite high.

Living Arrangements:

  • Rent: a 1 bedroom can go for $1200 a month.
  •  – community classifieds – has more detail on rent and jobs.

How much of a difference does applying online make?  Does your address (where you live) have an impact?

  • Employers want to see applicants face to face if they can, especially labourers.
  • Orientation sessions happen as the next step, and can be somewhat of a screening process.
  • Drug testing happens before any job.
  • With resumes for labourer jobs, employers tend to look more locally because they don’t want to wait.
  • Employers are much less strict on location for resumes with ticketed trades.
  • One might consider not including their address when applying for jobs up North.  I have actually read recently that addresses are often being left off resumes in general.

What do you feel makes a good resume stand out? Is there a particular format/style of resume that is most accepted?  (Functional/Chronological)

  • Tickets should be at the top of the resume.
  • Stay away from generic objectives.
  • If you are mechanically inclined, get it on your resume.
  • If you have driver’s license, put it on there.
  • Put that you can pass drug test and that you can work immediately.
  • Use Chronological resumes (easier for employers to read and better for resume scanners)

What is some important info for individuals to know before moving up to Fort St John?

  • January, February and March are good times of the year to move there (spring breakup will be delayed  in 2014 due to heavy snow)
  • Spring breakup:
    • Crews can’t go on site (roads too mushy)
    • Employers tend to give employees a break and time off.
    • Employers weed through employees, lay off those who weren’t effective during the season.
    • Skilled tradesmen stay on during spring break up.
    • Especially heavy equipment mechanics who maintain equipment during this off season.
    • Some trades people complain that there are actually too many hours (i.e., they are needed even in off season).

 How does Fort St. John compare to Fort McMurray?

  • Fort McMurray – Much larger operation, lots of people in camp (like 10-1 ratio of workers compared to Fort St.John)
  • Many people come up from Lower Mainland without understanding the Fort St. John rental situation and expect camp work like you might get in Alberta.
  • Camp work is typically more common for skilled trades people.


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