A program connecting new immigrants to job openings in the North Okanagan is celebrating its success.
Close to 300 people gathered at the Vernon Recreation Centre Thursday night to welcome families and celebrate the achievements of the Rural Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program.
The RNIP program helps rural communities attract skilled immigrants by matching job-seekers with employers, while creating a path to permanent residency.
Since 2020, when the North Okanagan began participating in the pilot, 296 vacant jobs have been filled locally by RNIP newcomers from 48 countries. Along with primary candidates’ family members, 624 newcomers now call the North Okanagan home.
“From the beginning, this has been a true community project with support and volunteerism from many stakeholders and individuals who have worked to ensure the success of the project. We are so grateful to all of you who have been involved,” said Leigha Horsfield, executive director of Community Futures North Okanagan.
The program continues to be a blessing for newcomers to the community from around the world.
Claire Amisco arrived in Vernon from the Philippines with her husband and two daughters just three weeks ago. She is now an office administrator at 250 Handyman.
“I believe this program will help a lot of people so we can get jobs and have a good family life,” she said.
250 Handyman co-owner Dior Amisco — Claire’s sister-in-law — has been able to hire and bring over two other employees through RNIP, one from the Middle East and another from the Philippines.
“It’s a pathway for us to share the blessings of being here and help others realize the Canadian dream as well,” she said.
A total of 173 businesses have participated in the program to date. Several employers at Thursday’s event have hired multiple staff members through RNIP, including City Furniture business development manager Justin Sharma. Along with a pair of newcomers on their way to Canada, Sharma has hired nine people from all over the world in the last two years, including people from India, Germany, Australia and the Philippines.
“We are grateful to have you join our community and help our community grow. This program has been a saving grace, and we hope you stay here and grow old here,” Sharma said.
“We love it here. It’s safe. I have a good job. Our kids go to daycare. You’ll have to kick us out,” said Alex Schoepp, from Germany.
There are currently 48,000 job-seekers in the queue across Canada. The local RNIP program has recently been expanded to include the Shuswap, where it is hoped that skill shortages will be filled.
The number of primary candidates the community can recommend each year has just been increased from 220 to 250, and Community Futures North Okanagan’s goal is to reach 300 in 2023.
“I’ve shared so many stories of how this program has done wonders in our community and I’m fortunate to know some of these families. You bring your talents and much-needed skills to our community…and looking out tonight at all of you, this is what makes the fabric of Canada so beautiful,” said Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu, who immigrated to Canada herself, arriving in Mackenzie B.C. more than 20 years ago.
To learn more about the RNIP program, visit rnipnorthokanaganshuswap.ca.