Federal Immigration Minister talks international student retention in Halifax

Click to play video '‘We must do better’: Federal Immigration Minister talks international student retention in Halifax' ‘We must do better’: Federal Immigration Minister talks international student retention in Halifax
WATCH: The Association of Atlantic Universities hosted their annual Leaders' Summit on Monday in Halifax. This year's theme: The International Student Experience. Jennifer Grudic has the story – Jul 10, 2017

With 16 universities to chose from in Atlantic Canada, the issue isn’t so much attracting international students as it is keeping them here.

On Monday, Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen attended the Atlantic Leaders’ Summit hosted by the Association of Atlantic Universities.

The event was designed to foster a conversation and generate ideas about how to retain more international graduates.

READ MORE: More immigrants coming to Atlantic Canada, but retention rates low: report

“A recent government study has noted that approximately 40 per cent of skilled immigrants who come to Atlantic Canada stay in Atlantic Canada. That is a very low number and we must do better,” Hussen said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada began accepting permanent resident applications for the new Atlantic Immigration Pilot program in March of this year. The three year pilot project is designed to connect employers with skilled workers and international student graduates, thus contributing to immigration numbers. The goal is to bring 2,000 new workers and their families to the region.

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“We want to see the fast processing, we want [immigrants] well-integrated into society, we want to see the retention rate going up,” Hussen said.

“If that’s the case, we will take those lessons to other parts of Canada that experience similar challenges.”

A study commissioned by the Association of Atlantic Universities and conducted by Corporate Research Associates found that 65 per cent of international graduates hoped to stay in Atlantic Canada following graduation.

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“It doesn’t fall on any one group or sector. It has to be a collaborative effort, ” said Peter Halpin, Association of Atlantic Universities executive director.

“We’re just far too small in Atlantic Canada to expect government or employers or universities to create the solutions to retain not just international students, but new Canadians in general.”

The study also found that the biggest contributing factor to their decision to leave is a lack of employment opportunities. Seventy-eight per cent of those who left the region said they would have stayed for an attractive job offer.