There’s an untapped market for North Okanagan and Shuswap trades employers looking for skilled workers.
And, with the help of a pilot program that bridges the gap between local businesses and experienced candidates, it’s a market that’s within reach.
Just ask Cory Petty, owner of Cory Petty Construction, about his experience with the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program.
“Lots of other businesses I talk to are short-staffed or they’re just way too busy. They need more people, and they can’t find them. You hear that a lot these days,” says Petty. “All of the people that I’ve had go through the program, they’re here because they want to work. They work hard and prove that they deserve to be here.”
Fast track to permanent residency
Initially launched as a three year pilot in Stage 1 communities in 2019, and in Stage 2 communities like the North Okanagan in 2020, the RNIP program helps communities and businesses benefit from the immigration of skilled workers by creating a path to permanent residency.
The North Okanagan was selected as one of the two communities in B.C., and one of 11 in Canada, and the program was extended until August 2024 with the last Letter of Recommendation to be issued to candidates by the end of February 2024.
For Petty, his long-time employee and friend Luiz Fernando de Paula is a perfect example of what’s possible with the program. The pair met more than six years ago during de Paula’s first week in the country. A skilled carpenter visiting Canada from Brazil on a work permit, de Paula was brought on board to support a two-year construction project in Calgary.
“After the project, Cory said he’d be glad to have me working with him forever, but they were moving back to Vernon. I stayed in Calgary for a year and Cory promised to call when he had a good project,” says de Paula, now a supervisor with Cory Petty Construction.
“One day, I was with my friend, and we were talking about my options to stay in the country. I was running out of time to immigrate. He told me about the RNIP program. In the same week the program launched, Cory gave me a call and asked if I would want to move to Vernon.”
Petty and de Paula met Ward Mercer, RNIP regional coordinator for the North Okanagan, and de Paula soon became one of the first applicants to pass through the program and receive permanent residency.
“It felt awesome. This was the goal when I moved to Canada. My wife and I love the countryside and the outdoor activities here. The Okanagan has been amazing for us,” says de Paula. “I’m reaching my goals thanks to Cory and the RNIP program.”
Simple and smooth hiring process
After their first meeting with Mercer, Petty says he attended an employer training session that taught him more about the program and how it works. With Mercer acting as his guide every step of the way, Petty made quick work of the paperwork before Mercer double-checked everything was in order.
“It seems like Ward did a lot of the work,” Petty says. “It was really easy.”
RNIP job board helps find good people
Inspired by de Paula’s success with the program, Petty decided to advertise a job through the RNIP job board. He hired de Paula’s wife, also a carpenter, and then used the program again to bring one other carpenter and a receptionist on board. Why? Because each time Petty used the RNIP program, he was able to hire good, qualified people to help him grow his company.
“When you put your job ad on the RNIP website, you’re going to get hundreds of qualified applicants. I wanted to physically meet people before I offered them a job through the program because I wasn’t as open to meeting over the phone,” says Petty.
“All of the people I’ve considered through the program happened to already be in Canada on work permits. Now, they’re part of our family. They’re friends as well as coworkers, and they all deserved the chance to be able to stay here.”
Since launching in our community in 2020, the RNIP program has supported more than 200 local businesses like Petty’s, welcoming more than 300 skilled workers into the North Okanagan and Shuswap.
With three successful hires through the program and plans for a fourth this year, Petty has a message for other trades businesses struggling to hire good people during the worker shortage.
“Trades business owners should be open to trying out the RNIP program. They’d be surprised at how much good it can do for them.”
Learn more about the RNIP program, eligibility requirements for employers and how RNIP can help grow your trades business at the link here.