Go small or go home.
That job-hunting advice appears to be the message from two employment reports released this week.
The first shows the number of job vacancies in Canada dropped slightly during the second quarter, an indication of a weaker labour market.
The second shows the odds of finding work increase substantially for those knocking on doors at smaller companies.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), which publishes such data in a quarterly Help Wanted report, points out the job-vacancy rate for small businesses is almost twice as high as for large businesses.
Smaller companies do not often experience the same success at filling positions as larger companies, the CFIB indicated.
'There are lots of opportunities -- many of them in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that go begging'
The CFIB, which represents small and medium-sized businesses, says there were 289,800 unfilled jobs in the private sector during the April to July period, a drop of about 5,000 from the previous quarter.
The estimate is higher than the 225,000 job vacancies reported by Statistics Canada in May, although the two surveys both show vacancies are dropping.
CFIB president Dan Kelly said vacancy rates are higher in service sectors, including hospitality and personal services.
"There are lots of opportunities -- many of them in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that go begging," Kelly said from Toronto. "These are important jobs that add to the flavour of the country and we need to be attentive to them."
In the March budget, the federal government pledged to create a jobs-grant program whereby Ottawa, the provinces and businesses share equally -- up to a total of $15,000 -- in the cost of training a worker for an unfilled job.
The Canada Job Grant (CJG) was opposed by the provinces at last month's Council of the Federation meetings in Niagara-on-the-Lake as poorly conceived and an intrusion on their jurisdiction.
Kelly said the CFIB supports the jobs-grant concept that would provide funding more directly to an employer looking to fill specific positions. Expenses would be equally shared by the employer and the federal and provincial governments.
"What we liked is that it is looking to change the way we have been doing training in Canada and getting the employer more directly involved in determining the type of training that would go on," Kelly said.
"That has been missing. The training is now decided by the trainer or by provincial or federal bureaucrats and not determined by employers who are the ones creating the jobs that they are struggling to fill."
The provinces -- including Manitoba -- are concerned it would disrupt provincial training infrastructure already in place and perhaps divert federal funds provinces rely on.
Kelly said for many CFIB members there are no training programs available for the kind of skills they sometimes need to be filled.
Doug Redekop, a manager at Penner Farm Services in Blumenort, said his industrial-, agricultural- and electronic-supply business has positions that sometimes remain vacant because it's tough to find the right candidate.
He said he would love to have the chance to receive more direct support for in-house training.
"Absolutely we would be interested in that if it was an option," he said.
But Redekop also understands for some, such as immigrant tradespeople who come to Manitoba with journeyman papers, there are specific certification requirements that have to be met.
"We do a lot of in-house training now, but it is not recognized by certification agencies," he said.
Kelly said there are plenty of details to be determined with the Canada Job Grant program.
He said his organization is pushing for a specific stream of money to be set aside to support in-house training.
The CFIB notes that historically, vacancies when the unemployment rate rises.
At 2.4 per cent of the market, the job-vacancy rate in the CFIB survey remains higher than levels seen just following the recession, but lower than the 2.8 per cent pre-recession peak in late 2007 and early 2008, when the unemployment rate stood near six per cent.
The rate is at 2.5 per cent in Manitoba.
July saw the national jobless rate rise one-tenth of a point to 7.2 per cent as the economy shed 39,000 workers. In Manitoba, the unemployment rate rose one half a percentage point to 5.5 per cent.
-- with files from The Canadian Press