Immigration program not taking away North Okanagan jobs

The pilot is helping employers overcome a skilled labour shortage that can’t be filled solely by residents

Vernon employees and those looking for work can rest assured that a new immigration pilot program coming to town isn’t taking away local jobs.

The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot begins Feb. 1 in Vernon, which is one of only 11 Canadian cities taking part in the program. The Community Futures North Okanagan (CFNO) is facilitating the program.

It allows local employers to post jobs that could help bring up to 100 skilled foreign workers to the North Okanagan every year until 2022 — bolstering the economy and helping employers overcome a looming skilled labour shortage that can’t be filled solely by residents.

These are skilled positions, such as those in the health care sectors, trades, high level manufacturing, engineers, technologists and IT sector.

“The employers are telling us over and over again that they can’t fill these jobs,” said Leigha Horsfield, CFNO general manager. “We have to look at other options because domestically we can’t fill those positions.”

To underscore her point, she said by 2028 there will be 90,000 job vacancies in the Thompson-Okanagan.

While the program can see up to 300 applicants for the three-year period, Horsfield said that is the maximum and they may not see anywhere close to that many applications as Canada isn’t the only country struggling to find skilled workers.

READ MORE: Pilot project aims to fill labor gaps in Vernon with skilled foreign workers

The process will also not happen overnight becuase it starts first with foreign workers who are already here.

“Most of the people in the first round of the program are people that are already here, they are already working in some temporary fashion,” said Horsfield, who says other communities that have implemented the program say well over 50 of the applicants are coming from the community.

“We aren’t going to see all of sudden 30 people show up.”

On the employer end, hiring a foreign worker is the last resort.

“They have to demonstrate that they’ve tried to hire a Canadian,” said Horsfield, adding that the position must be posted locally.

“It is 100 times easier to hire domestically for these positions, this isn’t the easiest path.”

There is no wage subsidy for employers, the only incentive is a faster track for residency and obtaining skilled workers to fill a gap.

The existing housing shortage in the region has also been considered, which is why those that are already living here are ideal.

For employers hiring direct foreign workers, it is a long process that takes approximately five months.

“During that time they can source housing and support,” said Horsfield. “We want to set people up for success.”

There is also favouritism for those who already have a rental property here, if they’ve worked in the region, if they have a spouse or if they have a high level of English.

“The whole purpose of this whole thing is retention and keeping people in our economy,” she said.

While the goal is to support these skilled positions, it won’t benefit all.

“But based on our consultation with employers, this program is a start,” said Horsfield, noting the program won’t meet the needs for seasonal employers, as the positions have to be full time.

In fact following Tuesday’s employer session, many do not quality for this program but there are others that CFNO can assist them with.

“Some of them were frustrated because they don’t pay $20 an hour,” said Horsfield, adding that CFNO is a WorkBC office so is always helping employers and employees connect.

But the reality is that there is a major gap in the workforce locally.

“Only 48 per cent participate in the workforce,” said Horsfield.

READ MORE: Vernon joins immigration pilot program


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

EmploymentImmigration

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Couple in crash on Highway 1 mistake North Shuswap for Lower Mainland

Chase RCMP report Mercedes Benz collides with transport truck

Province looking into pollution complaint at Shuswap dairy farm

Farm along the Salmon River has drawn complaints from the Okanagan Indian Band

Salmon Arm RCMP, new immigrants get acquainted at police station

Tour of detachment provides opportunity to explore differences in judicial systems

Shuswap speedskater takes on international competition in Poland

Salmon Arm’s Laura Hall too fourth place with Canadian team

Salmon Arm gives tax break to Canoe Forest Products plywood plant

Company tax bill to be reduced while residential taxpayers to pick up shortfall

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Laughing ladies and country artists sell out Okanagan venue

Alan Doyle and I Am Woman, Hear Me Laff! back to back sold out

Revelstoke mother and daughter return home after coronavirus quarantine in Asia

Jensine Morabito and her daughter were on Holland America’s Westerdam but did not catch the virus

Ministry grants SD67 extension to balance books, submit amended budget

The board of trustees voted Monday to acquire outside help to deal with budget concerns

Most Read