The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce wants the federal government to make it easier for communities to attract and retain international post-secondary students.
Chamber CEO Krista Ross said the Chamber is putting forward a resolution that could make it easier for students from other countries to get employment during university or college and after graduation.
“Our resolution this year is about welcoming and retaining international students,” Ross said.
Ross said Fredericton will be hosting Canadian Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting and conference in September. She said chamber staff from across the country will be submitting resolutions for other chambers to consider. She said if it’s a matter of international interest or international concern, other chambers from across the country could vote to support those resolutions.
“If they vote to support resolutions that means that the national chamber, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce will lobby and advocate for those resolutions in Ottawa,” Ross said.
“We have an aging demographic, our population is getting older and we need more people in the workforce and we need young people in the workforce, so that’s why we want to attract these students” Ross said.
The resolution contains six recommendations which include allowing international students to qualify for the Canada Summer Jobs program, modifying student permits that allow international students to get internships and co-op placement, extending the amount of time graduates have to find a job in the country and counting all the time they spend in Canada towards citizenship eligibility.
“In Atlantic Canada we have a slightly lower retention rate for international students but we also have a faster aging population so those are a couple of things that will have a great impact for us, that’s why it’s even more important for us to retain these international students,” Ross said.
Ali Ponte attended St. Thomas University and now works full time in Fredericton after moving to Canada from Venezuela. He said the recommended changes would benefit students looking to permanently live where they attended school.
“We as international students we make a great effort to come to Canada and once we’re settled here we look forward to make our best and make this place our new home,” Ponte said.
Ignite Fredericton acting population growth specialist Adriana Rivas also moved from Venezuela for school, and was able to land a full-time job after graduation. Her role also includes working as the Local Immigration Partnership of Fredericton coordinator.
“Ignite Fredericton truly believes that this is a great opportunity for international students and for talent to be retained in our region, especially when we know that international students provide a lot of value and economical impact into our region,” Rivas said.
“A lot of the concerns that we receive from international students, and being an international student myself, it’s about the network and how you go about building that network. Because as students you leave your family, most of the times you get to this new city, you’re involved in campus most of the time and what we try to do is make a lot of emphasis on building your network and how you can expand and meet other people that will help you essentially land different opportunities,” Rivas said.
She said the proposed extensions would greatly benefit out-of-country students.
“We strongly believe that having such an extension would really benefit international students because it would allow them to have more time to essentially have more roots in the community especially because a lot of them are trying to find those new opportunities,” Rivas said.
Rivas said there is a great talent pool of international students in the region.
“It’s a talent pool that we have right here , they’ve been educated in our universities, they know about our culture, they know about our community and they want to stay here and that’s the most important thing,” Rivas said.
New Brunswick Student Alliance executive director Robert Borroughs said they worked with the chamber on developing the proposed policy changes.
He said over the past five to 10 years there has been a significant out-migration of young people, including recent graduates.
“We know that we don’t do as well as we could in terms of international student retention,” Borroughs said. “Part of that has to do with some of the issues the chamber identified including access to work and then that transition post-graduation from the student life to the labour force here in New Brunswick.”
Borroughs said they’re hoping the resolution will enable international students to more easily transition into the New Brunswick workforce.
“We know that international students in Atlantic Canada have a bit of a different transition process to permanent residency than the rest of the country because of the Pilot Project. We’re hoping that Pilot will be successful and can serve as a model for the rest of the country,” Borroughs said.