July 12, 2017 4:34 pm
Updated: July 12, 2017 5:20 pm

Atlantic Immigration Pilot uptake off to a slow start

WATCH: The federal government set of a goal of bringing 2,000 skilled immigrants to Atlantic Canada in 2017 through the new Atlantic Immigration Pilot. Four months in, it’s clear there’s a lot more work to be done. Jennifer Grudic explains.

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When the Atlantic Immigration Pilot was originally announced in July 2016, a goal was set by the federal government to attract 2,000 skilled workers and their families to Atlantic Canada.

As part of the Atlantic Growth Strategy, the pilot is designed to fill labour gaps in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, or Newfoundland and Labrador.

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However, since officially launching program in March, there’s been just over 250 skilled immigrants and international graduates who have been recruited and applied for provincial endorsement. Of those, only 180 have been endorsed by their employers and can apply for permanent residency.

READ MORE: Atlantic premiers aim to bring 2,000 immigrants to region with pilot program

One of those people is Dalhousie graduate and software engineer Hardik Dalal. Originally from India, he was hired to work as an intern by local tech company Concertia Technologies Inc. After realizing he wanted to make Nova Scotia home, he then started looking for ways to stay.

“I started looking for provincial nominee programs and other options to settle down in Canada,” said Dalal.

“While going through that, I found this Atlantic Immigration Pilot program. It’s not on the homepage. But if you dig in enough, it’s good.”

He said for him, the application process with his employer was straightforward. He said he doesn’t think the slow uptake is a reflection on the quality of the program, but rather a lack of awareness and promotion.

“When you look at the Pilot program, it’s even shorter [than the provincial nominee program]. You don’t have to wait for a year of experience. You basically need an offer letter from your employer,” he said.

READ MORE: Federal government to promote Atlantic Canada as prime travel destination: minister

His employer, one of 146 businesses in Nova Scotia to have been approved to participate in the pilot, has already hired three recent graduates through the program.

“The local market is really constrained in terms of available computer science talent,” said Ross MacDougall, president Concertia Technologies Inc.

“We’ve had tremendous success with computer science folks coming out of Dal (Dalhousie University). This has just made access to a lot of those people a lot easier.”

MacDougall said he thinks there needs to be more done to get the word out to the local business community about the program.

“It’s creating that awareness, getting the message out and helping organisations like my own connect the dots between their human resources challenges and the availability of some incredible talent out there,” he said.

READ MORE: NS immigration rebounded to post Second World War levels in 2016

Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Lena Diab said her department is working to connect with employers to get the word out about the program. They said so far, they’ve spoken to upwards of 800 businesses.

“On Friday we launched the partnership with the Halifax Partnership and their job is to work with 200 businesses and employers and in the region of Halifax,” said Diab.

“We intend to do the same in Cape Breton and in the western part of the province.”

Nova Scotia’s share of the 2,000 goal figure is 798, something Diab says they’re working towards.

“These jobs are meant to fill persistent labour gaps and we’re excited about the prospects,” said Diab.

“We want to grow our economy and we believe that is one way we’ll be doing that.”

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

She said that the program is also designed to help with retention as employers work together with perspective employees on a settlement plan.

“These are people that are coming to stay, to work, to live, to contribute to our economy and spend money here in Nova Scotia,” Diab said.

“These are not transient people that are coming and going somewhere else. They will be paying income taxes. They will be buying cars. They will be buying homes.”

According to the federal government, 600 Atlantic employers have expressed an interest in becoming designated and about 400 have already received a designation from one of the four Atlantic Canadian provinces.

On Tuesday at the Atlantic Growth meetings in Steady Brook, NL, federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is launching a dedicated service channel for the program. It’s designed to assist employers whose candidates have received a provincial endorsement and are ready to apply for permanent residence.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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