Atlantic Canada's skilled workers push gets federal boost

New program will allow employers to fill vacancies with thousands of skilled immigrants

Atlantic Canada's skilled workers push gets federal boost

A pilot program established in 2017 is being made permanent in a huge boost to recruitment in Atlantic Canada.

The region’s push to attract more immigration is set to be propelled from January 1 by the newly named Atlantic Immigration Program, which will initially offer 6,000 dedicated spots, with the allocation between the four Atlantic provinces yet to be determined.

Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the move is designed to help an economy struggling because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

``With labour shortages top of mind as we seek to exit this pandemic recession, it's going to help businesses attract the skilled newcomers they need,'' Fraser said.

According to a report by The Canadian Press, the program allows employers designated by the provinces to make job offers to immigration applicants in order to help fill vacancies in sectors including health care, accommodations, food services and manufacturing. Candidates accepted into the program are granted permanent resident status in Canada.

The minister said there is a growing acceptance of the need for more immigrants, both nationally and in the Atlantic region, which he said is seeking to reverse demographic trends, such as an increasingly aging population.

Jason Shannon, president and CEO of Shannex, which operates long-term care facilities in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario, welcomed the new program. His company had successfully attracted 160 workers through the program - many of whom settled in small communities such as Debert, N.S., and Miramichi, N.B.

He said many of the internationally educated nurses Shannex has recruited work as certified personal care workers while they wait for their Canadian credentials to become registered nurses or licensed practical nurses.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, whose province recently reached the one-million mark in population, according to Statistics Canada, said the program will help support his province's drive to have two million residents by 2060.

``Nova Scotia has already grown five times faster in the past five years than it had in the previous 25 years,'' Houston said. ``This is momentum that we must keep building on.''

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