In just a few weeks, local employers will be able 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.
Vernon is one of two communities in B.C. and one of 11 in Canada selected to participate in the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP), which aims to help smaller communities benefit from the immigration of skilled workers by creating a path to permanent residence. RNIP Vernon will see Community Futures North Okanagan (CFNO) endorse qualifying job postings and support the local committee that recommends the applications of eligible skilled international workers.
“Our region is extremely fortunate to have been selected to participate in this project,” says Leigha Horsfield, CFNO general manager. “The opportunities it presents to enhance and fill gaps in our workforce needs is exceptional. One of the many outcomes we’d like to see is the promotion of the North Okanagan as a destination of choice for skilled immigrants and their families.”
The pilot is scheduled to begin in Vernon Feb. 1 and this week CFNO begins hosting ongoing RNIP training sessions for employers, who must meet several eligibility requirements, including being within a 40-kilometre radius (except for Kelowna), already having at least three full-time employees, and being able to pay a living wage of at least $25/hr for a full-time permanent position. As of Feb. 1, employers can post a position on the new RNIP Vernon website, which goes live today for information, and employers will also be required to post the job locally so current residents can apply.
On Feb. 3, RNIP candidates will be able to create a profile on the RNIP Vernon site and can then apply for postings. To be considered eligible, candidates must meet federal permanent residency criteria as well as language benchmarks, and intend to live in the community. Once there’s a match between qualified employers and applicants, a CFNO committee reviews applications monthly and can recommend up to 100 applicants per year.
“If we can target skilled workers who can earn a living wage, and if they have job security and a welcoming community, these people and their families are more likely to stay and continue contributing to our region,” says Ward Mercer, RNIP regional coordinator, adding with an aging population, only 47 per cent of Vernon residents are active in the workforce, and that number will continue to shrink as baby boomers retire.
“This is a proactive solution that supports our region’s economic development goals. Vancouver and Kelowna are such draws, how do we attract and keep skilled workers? They need to have good jobs and a good place to live,” says Mercer.
The pilot runs February 2020-22. The maximum number of recommended applicants would be 300 over the three-year period, in addition to applicants’ spouses and children, if their applications are also successful.
The RNIP project is supported by the City of Vernon, Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.