Getting to the bottom of the shortages of cooks and chefs in BC

The services of cooks and chefs are used by the public every day – every time you eat at a restaurant, enjoy a catered event, or buy freshly made food from grocery stores, a cook or chef is involved. There has been a growing concern across all sectors in BC that employ cooks and chefs – hospitality, tourism, and food services – about potential shortages of skilled cooks and chefs to fill vacancies created by exits from the occupation and continuous industry growth.

Deetken was asked to assess the landscape of cooking occupations to help answer key questions: Are there in fact shortages of skilled cooks and chefs in BC? If so, why and how severe are the shortages? What are the potential trajectories? And what practical, defensible steps can be taken to address these challenges?

To answer these questions, Deetken built an analytical framework from a comprehensive set of data sources. A core component of the framework was a segmentation model that identified labour market characteristics by sector and occupational profile to isolate areas of real or potential labour shortage. Further analysis was conducted through structured interviews and focus groups to explore areas of concern, including - for example - the overall low participation and high exit rates from the occupation on the part of women.

Deetken worked closely with the client and a steering committee comprising senior executives across the sectors and BC government economists to vet the methodology and results and to build a targeted set of recommendations. These recommendations drove a simulation model to demonstrate their impact on the labour market for cooks and chefs over a 5-year timeframe. Next steps to implement the recommendations are currently underway.

A recent Globe and Mail article summarized the main findings of the Deetken study. Another Globe and Mail article highlights the challenges faced by many cooks and chefs in British Columbia.

Estimating the impacts of service level deficiencies

Effective, reliable and integrated technology systems are key enablers for the provision of quality healthcare. These systems can help improve quality, consistency and efficiency across the continuum of care; enhance physician and staff experience by improving information pooling and exchange, transparency and accessibility; and facilitate reporting and data mining.

However, at times, technology can also stand in the way of effective delivery of care, particularly when a problem – like slow log times or failing hardware – impacts clinical flow. One of our clients was facing this challenge and engaged The Deetken Group to identify where deficiencies in technical support (“service failures”) were adversely impacting workflow and productivity and – critically – compromising patient care.

The Deetken Group leveraged a number of machine learning techniques to identify and quantify the impact of these service failures. These included the application of topic modelling and data mining algorithms. Using these techniques, we were able to automate the review of over 1 million requests from staff for support (in the form of “call centre tickets”) and to identify specific instances of service failures. We could then accurately determine the error rate of call centre tickets and estimate the additional workload and productivity impacts of these errors. Overall our analysis identified that over 4,000 workdays per year were lost due to these call centre errors. As a result of our work, our client asked us to design the optimal support system (in this case, a “call centre model”) for resolving the challenges uncovered through our research.