Whalley Options Community Services Society workers say a wide range of employers and employees are coming through their doors

On the front lines of Surrey’s employment services sector, business is booming.

Options Community Services Society, located in the Whalley area of the city, is one of five employment services branches contracted by WorkBC in Surrey. Lorena Cottrell, an employer relations and job developer for the office on 140 Street, said the society is seeing a little bit of everything right now.

“We can see the growth,” Cottrell said. “I’ve been in Surrey for 10 years, and the changes that I’ve seen lately are incredible.”

The Surrey Board of Trade estimates that the city is adding 1,200 people a month to its population base through immigration, migration and birth. Recent City of Surrey demographic and population studies predict that the city will add 330,000 or more residents over the next 30 years – a 65% increase. This means an additional 160,000 jobs will be needed, doubling the current existing workforce of the area. Every day, close to 40 people are being added into the mix, and many of those who are looking for work come with unique circumstances or skill sets.

“We have everything from construction, agricultural, manufacturing,” Cottrell said. “We have seasonal work that is starting, we have landscaping, painting, general labour work.”

The net hiring outlook – defined as the percentage of employers planning to hire minus the percentage of those planning to decrease their staffing levels – for Surrey in 2015’s second quarter is 27%, according to the results of a Manpower survey released March 10.

The Options office in Whalley is also bracing for the coming closure of Surrey’s Target store located just a few blocks away, one of 133 outlets the company is shutting down. However, Mahrukh Khuram, an employment counsellor who works alongside Cottrell, said the opening of a No Frills store nearby should help bridge some of those workers into new jobs. There’s also the coming agricultural season, still a major booster of employment in Surrey, in which seasonal workers are hired at multiple food processing plants.

“There’s a little bit more manufacturing coming aboard,” added Cottrell when asked to pick the sector with the biggest increase in numbers of employees looking for jobs and employers looking for workers. “And even the manufacturing companies already set up are trying to expand within themselves, so hopefully this will continue to be a growth area.”

On top of that, a large number of seniors are finding out they didn’t tuck enough money away for retirement, resulting in the return of many to the labour force.

However, Khuram said, the main bulk of people who walk through Options’ doors are between 29 and 40 years old and from a varied background – but are competing for the same types of jobs.

“There’s two categories basically of what we see. One is people who don’t have a lot of skills or qualifications and they’re looking to get into labour positions or entry-level positions. The other part is skilled immigrant workers who don’t have any local qualifications, so that’s why they’re also targeting those same entry-level jobs. Because their skills back home don’t translate right away and they’re just using these jobs as survival jobs, and their long-term goals are, of course, going back to their own professions.”

With an influx of new immigrants also come challenges. Workers who have a high skill level in their particular field, but a low Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level are presenting hurdles for Options and WorkBC centres around the region. Khuram said most employers are asking a minimum of CLB Level 5 of potential workers as a condition of employment. The ratings system ranks English-language skills on a scale of 1 to 12, broken down into three stages of listening, reading, writing and speaking. One of the prerequisites for a Level 5 rating is being able to speak in both a formal and casual setting, plus being able to understand a range of common vocabulary, both written and spoken.

“Working with employers one on one, that is one of the first things they are saying to us now is they must have strong English skills,” said Cottrell.

Khuram said Options can help validate foreign credentials but stressed that learning the language is something that takes time through coursework – something else it offers.

“We come across this hurdle where there are new immigrant programs but we are unable to train them unless they can speak English,” she added. “Sometimes what happens is they get stuck in survival work and then they lose their new immigrant funding.”

Surrey has long been pegged as a bedroom community of employees who get in their cars or hop on the SkyTrain to commute to other parts of the region. But this perception is changing, said Cottrell.

“When people are moving here now we’re finding they don’t want to go anywhere else. They don’t want to cross the bridges anymore; they want to find employment in Surrey and live in Surrey.” •

With files from Emma
Crawford Hampel

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In this issue...
Early Spring Fever Hit Fraser Valley Real Estate Market
Preparing Your Home for a Successful Sale
Get Your Home in Shape for Spring
The Body Language of Confidence

Early Spring Fever Hit Fraser Valley Real Estate Market 

In February, sales of all property types in the Fraser Valley increased by 21 per cent in one year with demand for two property types in particular (single family detached homes and townhomes) outpacing supply.

Last month, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board processed 1,337 sales on the Multiple Listing Service® compared to 1,102 sales in February of last year.

New listings in February totaled 2,610 which added up to 7,864 active listings, up from January’s 7,307 but a decrease of four per cent compared to February 2014’s 8,210 active listings.

“It was our busiest February since 2007,” says newly elected Board President Jorda Maisey.  “In my community of Langley, the average number of days to sell a detached home is now less than one month and it’s a challenge finding the right product for some of our buyers, however every area is different.  To understand the market for your home in your neighbourhood, talk to your REALTOR®.”

A measurement the real estate industry relies on to gauge the health of the housing market is the ratio between sales and active listings.  For the Lower Mainland, the balanced range is between 12 and 20 per cent; which means when it’s less than 12 it favours buyers and greater than 20 it favours sellers.  The ratio in February for single family detached homes was 26 per cent; townhomes 22 per cent and apartments 12 per cent.

Maisey adds, “Our best seller in the Fraser Valley remains the single family detached home, followed by townhomes in part because almost half our buyers are families with children but also because these products are so much more affordable in the Fraser Valley.  With a typical townhome costing less than $300,000 and interest rates so low, many first‐time buyers are finding they can get more for their money here.”

The MLS® HPI benchmark price of a Fraser Valley single family detached home in February was $581,400, an increase of 4.2 per cent compared to February 2014 when it was $558,100.  In February, the benchmark price of townhouses was $297,200, a decrease of 0.6 per cent compared to $298,900 in February 2014.  The benchmark price of apartments also decreased year‐over‐year by 1.8 per cent, going from $193,200 in February 2014 to $189,700 in February 2015.

Across Fraser Valley, the average number of days to sell a single family detached home in February was 41 days, ten days faster than last year.  Townhouses on average took 55 days to sell; one day faster than last February, while Fraser Valley apartments sold on average in 70 days, on par with February 2014.

Preparing Your Home for a Successful Sale 

A properly prepared home will reap huge rewards!

Preparing your home for sale requires some planning but it’s well worth the effort as it’ll help your home sell quickly and for top dollar.  The following points can be implemented quickly and with little or no money:

  1. Curb Appeal - Home buyers form their opinions as soon as they pull up so first class curb appeal is key.  Create the best first impression possible by cutting the grass, tidying the yard, painting or washing the exterior and cleaning all windows.

  2. Clear the Clutter - Too much “stuff” makes your home appear smaller than it really is and most buyers can’t see past other people’s clutter.  Clean out your closets, garage, basement and attic.  Put what you’re keeping in storage and donate the rest.

  3. De-personalize - Buying a home is an emotional experience so it’s important that buyers are able to imagine themselves living in your home.  De-personalize each room by taking down family photos, knick-knacks and anything else that’ll make them feel like they're intruding.

  4. Fix it First - Buyers always inflate repair costs so make sure you take care of repairs ahead of time.  Even small things such as leaky faucets and ripped carpeting make your home appear neglected and a possible money pit in the eyes of buyers.

  5. Peeking Allowed - Buyers will size up each and every room but they'll also be snooping in your cupboards, drawers and closets so make sure they’re organized, de-cluttered and clean.  Hang clothes up neatly, leave open space and clear floor areas.

It’s often the little things that make a huge difference when it comes to creating a winning first impression.  If you want to get top dollar for your property, invest some time and money into fixing and freshening up your home before it hits the market.  It’s an investment that will definitely pay off!

Get Your Home in Shape for Spring 

Homes need regular check-ups in order to stay healthy.

Spring’s right around the corner so it’ll soon be time to identify and correct minor issues so you can avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.  This simple spring checklist will help protect the health of your home:

  1. Roof - Repair missing or cracked shingles.

  2. Outdoor Wiring - Check thoroughly for wear and tear.

  3. Deck/Patio - Check for safety hazards such as loose railings and rotten boards.

  4. Foundation - Inspect interior/exterior walls for cracks and signs of moisture.

  5. Gutters - Clean gutters/downspouts and make sure they direct water away from your home.

  6. Safety - Inspect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and review your family’s fire plan.

  7. Landscaping - Cut back trees/bushes that touch the house and remove any dead branches.

Home is where the heart is so do your best to keep it healthy.  Regular maintenance of your home and yard will save you time and money in the future and you’ll be much more relaxed come summer knowing you won’t be in for any nasty surprises.

The Body Language of Confidence 

A person's body language usually says more than their words.

Projecting positive body language is a skill that should be mastered by all of us from corporate bigwigs to children on the playground.  Here are a few basic tips that’ll help boost your confidence:

  • use a natural tone, volume and pace when you speak

  • use your hands for gesturing instead of sticking them in your pockets

  • avoid fidgeting as it shows you're disinterested, bored and/or nervous

  • stand up straight in a relaxed posture with your head held high

  • give a strong handshake while looking into the person’s eyes with a relaxed smile

Studies have shown that our poses can actually change our body chemistry.  High power poses where the body is open and relaxed actually increases your confidence levels.  Stand tall and be proud!

PS Are you sick of scouring the paper and MLS sites looking for homes?  Tired of playing telephone tag with agents only to hear the home's already sold?  Sit back, relax and let me do the work for you!  Just visit my website and check off the features you're looking for.  Whenever a home matching your criteria hits the market, it'll be automatically flagged and emailed to you so you'll never have to worry about missing out on your dream home.
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The Bank of Canada left the overnight rate unchanged at 0.75% after a 25 basis point cut on January 21, 2015.

·           The Bank sees inflation risks as “more balanced” given the easing in financial conditions seen since January. Financial stability risks were noted to be “evolving as expected.” While the Bank has shied away from forward guidance, today’s statement seemed to indicate an implicit neutral bias.

·           The prospect of an additional cut at today’s meeting was significantly diminished following Governor Poloz’s speech on February 24, 2015, in which he noted that the January cut “buys us some time to see how the economy actually responds” to the oil price shock. Today’s rate announcement was consistent with that assessment as easier financial conditions were seen as contributing to “more balanced” risks around the inflation profile and an “as expected” evolution in financial stability risks. The Bank has shifted to more of a neutral policy stance, but, should upcoming data indicate a significant slowing in activity or increased downside risks to its inflation profile, another rate cut is not off the table. We will publish our updated interest rate forecasts in our Financial Markets Monthly this Friday, March 6, 2015.

The Bank of Canada left the overnight rate unchanged at 0.75% on March 4, 2015 after surprising markets with a 25 basis point cut at its previous meeting in January.

Since the Bank’s January Monetary Policy Report (MPR), the economic outlook has evolved roughly as expected with fourth-quarter 2014 gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2.4% (compared with the Bank’s 2.5% assumption) and core inflation at 2.2% in January (holding slightly above the Bank’s 2.0% forecast for the first quarter of 2015). The Bank continues to note that core inflation has been boosted by pass-through from the weaker Canadian dollar as well as “sector-specific factors” (meat, communications, and clothing and footwear were cited in the January MPR). The decline in headline inflation, as expected, was attributed to falling oil prices.

The Bank had a positive assessment of growth in 2014 as a whole with rotation toward non-energy exports and investment seen as “well underway.” Importantly, however, the effect of lower oil prices on the Canadian economy remains to be seen, with much of the drag on growth expected to come in the first half of 2015. The statement noted that the negative effect “may be even more front-loaded than projected in January,” and thus, the Bank’s forecast for 1.5% annualized growth in the first and second quarters of 2015 may be tweaked in April.

The statement noted that financial conditions “have eased materially since January” in response to the Bank’s January cut as well as “global financial developments,” including easing by a number of other central banks. Further weakening in the Canadian dollar, currently around US$0.80 rather than the $0.86 assumed in January, has also contributed to an easing in financial conditions. The Bank noted that this easing will “mitigate the negative effects of the oil price shock” and boost growth through stronger non-energy exports and investments.

The Bank of Canada surprised markets with a 25 basis point cut in January, which was aimed at providing a measure of “insurance” against the negative net effect of lower oil prices on the Canadian economy. Given the Bank’s emphasis on risk management and with oil prices remaining slightly below the $55/barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) assumed in its forecast, expectations were that further easing would soon follow. The prospect of an additional cut at today’s meeting, however, was significantly diminished following Governor Poloz’s speech on February 24, 2015, in which he noted that the January cut “buys us some time to see how the economy actually responds” to the oil price shock. Today’s rate announcement was consistent with that assessment, as easier financial conditions were seen as contributing to “more balanced” risks around the inflation profile and an “as expected” evolution in financial stability risks. The Bank has shifted to more of a neutral policy stance, but, should upcoming data indicate a significant slowing in activity or increased downside risks to its inflation profile, another rate cut is not off the table. We will publish our updated interest rate forecasts in our Financial Markets Monthly this Friday, March 6, 2015.

Josh Nye, Economist, RBC Economics

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