Employers learn details of program aimed at bringing skilled immigrants to Atlantic Canada

A new three year pilot program is looking at speeding up immigration for skilled workers to the Atlantic region, with hopes of bringing more skilled immigrant workers to P.E.I.

'I'm glad they've recognized the necessity for immigrants in Atlantic Canada'

Certain industries have struggled for years to attract workers due to a shrinking labour force and aging population. (CBC)

A new three year pilot program aims to speed up immigration for skilled workers to P.E.I.

Under the project, P.E.I will be allowed to bring in 120 more immigrants in the first year. That's on top of immigration programs that already exist.

It's part of an Atlantic-wide program with a goal of bringing more skilled immigrant workers to the region.

Employers and others interested in the program gathered in Charlottetown Tuesday to get more information on the program.

The province held an information session on the new pilot program for employers on Tuesday. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"I'm glad they've recognized the necessity for immigrants in Atlantic Canada," said Mike Schut, the vice-president of human resources for Bulk Carriers P.E.I., a long haul trucking company. 

He said he needs five to ten truck drivers right now. 

"Nationally and internationally there is a shortage of long haul truck drivers," he said. "We've been experiencing this for about 14 years now and it's getting progressively worse."

3 year plan

The strategy is part of a federal and provincial government initiative announced last summer

The program hopes to make it easier to attract and keep skilled immigrants, by offering permanent residency.

"It allows the companies to seek out the individuals themselves," said P.E.I. Minister of Economic Development and Tourism Heath MacDonald. "It will be a fairly quick process."

Minister of Economic Development and Tourism Heath MacDonald presented the information about the program at a recent meeting. (Laura Meader/CBC)

To obtain the temporary work permit, a job offer is required, as well as a letter from the province and a commitment from the individual that they will apply for permanent residence. 

Individualized settlement plans for the individual and their families are also required.

Variety of workers needed

Certain industries have struggled for years to attract workers due to a shrinking labour force and aging population. 

Aspin Kemp & Associates plans to use the program. The company specializes in manufacturing electrical systems for the offshore and marine industries. 

"Usually we're looking to fill engineering positions, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, systems and software," said human resources manager Stephanie Gallant. "It can be challenging."

Stephanie Gallant with Aspin Kemp & Associates said the company will be able to recruit a wider variety of employees through the program. (Laura Meader/CBC)

She hopes the new pilot project will give the company "a lot more flexibility."

Quicker application process

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will begin accepting applications in early March.  

Employers who have an immediate vacancy can get temporary work permits so an immigrant and his or her family can come to Canada right away.

"You hear it from companies. It takes too long sometimes to process files," said MacDonald.

"This will expedite it and allow them to move quicker."

A total of 2,000 applicants are expected for the program in Atlantic Canada in the first year.