Thunder Bay official seeks to recruit skilled workers from Europe for northern Ontario

Yaye Peukassa of the Société Économique de l’Ontario took part in Destination Canada, a joint initiative of the Canadian embassy in France, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and several French and Belgian public agencies.

Yaye Peukassa took part in Destination Canada in Paris and Brussels

Yaye Peukassa of the Société Économique de l’Ontario said he was able to speak to approximately 150 potential immigrants to Ontario at Destination Canada and encourage them to move to smaller northern communities. (Yaye Peukassa/supplied)

An employability and entrepreneurship counsellor with the Société Économique de l'Ontario (SEO) has just returned from major federal government events in Paris and Brussels, where he became the organization's first official there tasked with recruiting skilled workers to northern Ontario.

Yaye Peukassa took part in Destination Canada in Paris from Nov. 13 - 15 and in Brussels from  Nov. 17 - 18. The event was a joint initiative of the Canadian embassy in France, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and several French and Belgian public agencies.  

Around 600 people visited SEO's stand to express interest in working in Ontario, with many having expertise in IT, aircraft maintenance, finance, mining, and construction, ​Peukassa told CBC's Superior Morning program.

He was able to speak to about 150 people, in hopes of encouraging them to choose smaller northern communities.

"My question was, 'Where do you want to locate in Ontario?'  100 per cent of people's answer was Toronto, Ottawa," he said.

Why Canada? Why Thunder Bay? We hear about the ongoing efforts to attract people to the region... from all over the world. Yaye Peukassa - Employability and Entrepreneurship Counsellor and Emily Lauzon - Program Officer - Employability Advisor. Both work with the Northern Policy Institute. 12:05

But after speaking to them about the lower cost of living and less competition for skilled jobs in northern Ontario, "everyone was very grateful to have my perspective."

Peukassa  is currently working with the Thunder Bay Community Matchmaker program, a partnership between the North Superior Workforce Planning Board, La Société Économique de l'Ontario, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission and Northern Policy Institute.

The goal of the program is to help address labour shortages in the north by connecting potential immigrants and current international students with jobs. 

Thunder Bay must partner with post-secondary institutions 

His colleague in the program is employability adviser Emily Lauzon, who has been working to help some of the approximately 4,000 international students in the north to stay in the region. 

"I think Thunder Bay and the post-secondary institutions need to partner," she said.    

"Recently Sault College announced that they were going to be targeting their international student recruitment to help produce graduates that can go directly and fill the labour shortages that they're having in that region.  That's a great plan.  That's something that we could do here," Lauzon said.

Students are graduating from northern Ontario colleges and universities with skills in computer science, engineering, aerospace manufacturing and air craft maintenance and part of her job is to interest employers in that pool of candidates, she said.

"We need employers to get on board," Peukassa said, "because this project has been designed to be a solution for them for the labour shortages that they're experiencing."  

He invited employers to call for information and said he can send them resumes to review. 

The program can also help employers understand the immigration process and how to hire employees from other countries, Lauzon added.