Immigration program not taking away Vernon 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 project begins Feb. 1 in Vernon, which is one of only 11 Canadian cities taking part in the program. 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 health care, trades, high level manufacturing, engineers, technologists and IT sectors.

“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 could process 300 applicants over 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 won’t happen overnight because 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.

“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 qualify 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

RCMP volunteers sought for Vernon, Lumby

Core classroom training set to begin this spring

$55K consultation fees for Vernon to dump effluent in lake

Savings from pumping reclaimed water to reservoir to cover costs

Stinky situation for some in Vernon

Unexpected issue disrupted Thursday’s garbage service, Saturday pickup scheduled

Armstrong Kin Club celebrates 100

All-Canadian service club gives back to communities from coast to coast

Vernon firefighters respond to car fire

No smoke or visible flames seen in Bella Vista Road incident

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Gas drops below a dollar per litre in Penticton

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Pawsative Pups: You have a new puppy, now what?

Lisa Davies is a new columnist for Black Press who writes about dog training

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

Sewer service planned for South Okanagan community of Kaleden

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen plans to extend Okanagan Falls system into Kaleden

‘A horror show:’ Ex-employee shares experience at problematic Chilliwack seniors’ home

Workers are paid below industry standard at all Retirement Concepts facilities

Mitchell’s Musings: Modern language is a work in progress

Communication requires more critical thinking from listeners

Forest industry protests northern B.C. caribou protection deal

B.C. Mining Association supports federal-Indigenous plan

Most Read