Traditionally, the role of employment agencies has been to help people looking for work find jobs.

That’s certainly what Deb Hotchkins is used to.

She’s the executive director of Partners in Employment, a Stratford-based agency which aims to connect open positions and interested workers around Huron-Perth with each other.

But lately, she’s seen a big shift in what her organization is dealing with.

“Now it’s employers coming to us, looking for people,” she said in an interview.

“I get two or three phone calls every day from employers begging me for resumes of people that are looking for employment.”

Data from the Four County Labour Market Planning Board backs up Hotchkins’ experiences.

That organization’s executive director, Gemma Mendez-Smith, says employers have reported a high number of “very hard-to-fill positions.”

In the Stratford area – which, when it comes to labour market measurements and planning, stretches all the way up the Bruce Peninsula – unemployment rates are fairly low.

Many of those people are young workers, who may not have the skills employers are seeking for some of the jobs they’re looking to fill.

“While they’re looking for people and they might get applicants, not all of those applicants have the skills and abilities that they’re looking for,” said Mendez-Smith.

Hotchkins says she’s hoping the government will come through with some sort of funding to get those young workers “skilled up” and into the workforce.

Mendez-Smith wants to see more training for “soft skills” like communication and showing up for work on time.

“It really is about that strong work ethic,” she said.

The labour planning board has found that there are 153,000 people either working or looking for work in Perth, Huron, Grey and Bruce counties, which is actually 13,000 people lower than the number recorded in 2010.

Even the mayor of Stratford – the largest city in those four counties – says he’s seeing a “reverse challenge” when it comes to employment.

“There is an abundance of jobs in this community,” said Dan Mathieson.

“We have more manufacturing jobs – advanced skilled jobs – than we actually have people available to take them.”

On Nov. 1, Partners in Employment and other agencies will host a job fair in Stratford.

Many employers will be hiring on the spot, Hotchkins said.

With reporting by Marc Venema