Workshop outlines potential for employers to hire new immigrants

Photo by Adam Cooke Mary-Jo MacKay (standing), senior policy analyst for the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration, came to the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Bear Head Conference Room on June 20, for the second of two sessions designed to explain the federal government’s new Atlantic Immigration Pilot and its potential for linking employers to new employees as they seek to emigrate to Nova Scotia. A similar session was held in Sydney earlier the same day.

PORT HAWKESBURY: How can local employers use a new federal program to bring recently-arrived immigrants into the workforce?

  Officials from Nova Scotia’s provincial Immigration Office and the Cape Breton Island Centre for Immigration (CBICI) attempted to answer that question in Port Hawkesbury, during the second of two sessions held on June 20 regarding the federal government’s new Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP).

  In front of two dozen representatives of organizations from across Cape Breton that are aiming to increase attraction and retention of new Canadians within Nova Scotia communities, the senior policy analyst for the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration, Mary-Jo MacKay, noted that 200 applications have already been received for the 800 slots open for AIP participation within the province during 2017.

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  “They range from employers from big industries who need 100 or 200 people who have big HR staff that are designated to find people, to Mom and Pop shops that need one person and that’s the difference between getting the contract or not, or staying open or not,” MacKay told her audience at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Bear Head Conference Room.

  While the AIP is designed to speed up the processing stage at the federal level and allow employers to skip such steps as the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process if they have been unsuccessful at filling labour gaps on a local level, MacKay cautioned that the pilot, which is completely administered by the federal government, can only accelerate the hiring of new Canadians to a specific degree.

  “Employers often hear that and they think ‘super-fast,’ that they’re going to be here right away, but that’s not how it works in immigration,” warned MacKay.

  “Priority processing means up to six months for a permanent resident application to be assessed. There’s an up-front employer piece, and then the six-month assessment where the federal government starts [its investigation].”

  She also advised her Strait area audience to place a priority on retention, noting that even employers in urban centres struggle with this notion, as evidenced by a conversation MacKay had with a Halifax business owner a week before her arrival in Port Hawkesbury.

  .”He said, ‘We do a lot of great things in our workforce – we have barbeques, we have welcoming events, we have cultural competence training for our staff to integrate principal applicants into the workforce, but they still leave,’” MacKay recalled.

  “And you know they’re leaving because the [immigrant employee’s] spouse isn’t happy, or the spouse feels isolated. So we know we need to do more – help us learn how to do more for the whole family unit.”

  The June 20 workshop also heard from Erika Shea, director of communications and external relations for New Dawn Enterprises, a partner in the Cape Breton Island Centre for Immigration (CBICI).

  “This [pilot project] is going to be a great and useful tool in Cape Breton’s toolbox to start increasing our population and growing our innovation,” declared Shea.

  For more information on the Atlantic Immigration Pilot’s administration in Nova Scotia, visit the following Web site:  http://novascotiaimmigration.com/help-for-employers/atlantic-immigration-pilot/.

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Adam Cooke has been a staff writer and columnist for The Reporter since 1999. A native of L’Ardoise, Adam lives in Port Hawkesbury with his wife Cathy.