Rural immigration pilot a success in Claresholm, Alta.

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Rural immigration pilot a success in Claresholm, Alta.
When the federal government rolled out its Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the town of Claresholm, Alta., was among 11 communities to take part. The three-year project was set to wrap up in 2022, but as Quinn Campbell explains, its been extended instead. – Jan 9, 2023

There’s been a bit of a learning curve for pharmacy assistant Flavia Marszaukowske at her new job in Canada.

“It’s not the same how pharmacy works here in Canada, it’s a little bit different than Brazil but it’s going well,” said Marszaukowske. She added that she came to work at the Claresholm Pharmacy through the federal government’s Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.

She said the process was complicated but worth it.

“As an immigrant, it’s difficult to, you know, get into a place that you can do what you are trained to do, so that was very nice,” Marszaukowske said.

Pharmacy owner Paul Zemlak said utilizing the pilot project was a no-brainer as it helped to fill a much-needed gap many small communities face.

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“Sometimes in the rural areas, it’s difficult to get qualified staff and this is just a great opportunity to help our business and to help rural Alberta,” Zemlak said.

The three-year pilot project kicked off in 2020, but due to COVID-19, it’s been extended another year.
But so far, Claresholm’s economic development officer Brady Schnell said the program has been a huge success.

“In the last three years, we’ve recommended 49 people for full-time employment in Claresholm (at) 24 local businesses, and that equates to 135 new residents, adults and children invited to live and work in Claresholm,” said Schnell.

Claresholm is the only community in Alberta taking part in the program, and one of the smallest across the country.

Schnell said once newcomers arrive, that’s when the real work starts.

He added a welcoming committee has been formed to help retain residents long-term.

“It’s a committee of volunteers, immigrants and staff, a very diverse group of people,” he said. “And what we work to do is do activities and engage with our newcomers (to create) a sense of belonging and welcome.”

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Schnell added he hopes to see even more local businesses utilize the program and give immigrants an opportunity to see what rural living has to offer.

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