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

Creating accessible art in unusual places

Phase two of Art Alleries in the works for Revelstoke

Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Feb. 13

120 years ago: Revelstoke Herald, Feb. 13, 1900 Ten Revelstoke men left… Continue reading

What’s in a name? The story of Mt. Begbie

It’s likely the iconic Revelstoke peak had several Indigenous peoples’ names before settlers arrived

Protesters barricade Premier John Horgan’s home ahead of B.C. budget unveiling

Demonstrators from the Extinction Rebellion have blocked the Langford driveway

Play sparks curiosity through movement in Vernon

Hands and Feet invites theatre newcomers to fall in love with production

Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre makes a splash with Girl in the Goldfish Bowl

Performance packed full of surprises, director Cara Nunn says

Victoria, Abbotsford record biggest jumps in rent prices nationwide: report

Toronto and Vancouver had priciest rentals in Canada

VIDEO: Convoy of forest industry supporters on its way to Victoria

Rally at the B.C. legislature begins with participants setting off from Campbell River

Teen snowmobiler found safe after overnight search in Okanagan

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

Summerland basketball team advances to Provincials

Summerland senior girls team wins regional meet, will compete in Langley

Summerland property taxes forecast to rise

Proposed municipal budget calls for increase of four per cent

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Most Read