For­eign in­va­sion

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - Editorial -

At­lantic Canada has en­joyed con­sid­er­able suc­cess at­tract­ing skilled im­mi­grants and for­eign stu­dents to our shores. But, as Fed­eral Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen noted in Monc­ton this week, the prob­lem is re­ten­tion. They come here and they don’t stay.

The num­bers sup­port that as­sess­ment. Weaker than ex­pected re­sults from a re­cent im­mi­gra­tion ini­tia­tive sug­gests the re­gion has a lot of work to do.

The At­lantic Im­mi­gra­tion Pi­lot Project (AIPP) got off to a slow start last year with fi­nal num­bers be­low ex­pec­ta­tions. The pi­lot sought to con­nect im­mi­grants with com­pa­nies seek­ing spe­cific em­ploy­ees. It hoped to bring and re­tain up to 2,000 ad­di­tional im­mi­grant ap­pli­cants and their fam­i­lies to the re­gion in 2017, with in­creased num­bers in fol­low­ing years if the pro­gram per­forms well. It was an­nounced re­cently that AIPP would con­tinue and dou­ble to a yearly al­lo­ca­tion of 4,000 by 2020.

Prince Ed­ward Is­land filled its 2017 AIPP quota, con­tin­u­ing the prov­ince’s re­cent suc­cesses in re­tain­ing im­mi­grants. New Brunswick reached about three-quar­ters of its tar­get, while New­found­land and Labrador and Nova Sco­tia found about 25 per cent of the work­ers needed to fill spe­cific jobs. AIPP ob­vi­ously en­coun­tered some grow­ing pains but has wide sup­port and po­ten­tial for growth.

A pro­gram tar­get­ing for­eign stu­dents to stay here after grad­u­a­tion got a lot of at­ten­tion this week. At the Monc­ton con­fer­ence, it was an­nounced that a pro­gram al­ready in place to help in­ter­na­tional stu­dents to stay and work in Nova Sco­tia is ex­pand­ing into the other three At­lantic prov­inces.

Hussen noted that At­lantic Canada has a re­ten­tion rate for skilled im­mi­grants of around 60 per cent, com­pared to rates of 90 per cent or higher in On­tario and Al­berta. To im­prove that im­bal­ance, Hussen an­nounced a re­gion-wide ex­ten­sion of Nova Sco­tia’s “Study and Stay,” as a com­pli­ment to AIPP.

Tar­get­ing for­eign stu­dents makes a lot of sense. In re­cent years, the num­bers of in­ter­na­tion­als at At­lantic univer­si­ties has surged as in­sti­tu­tions ag­gres­sively re­cruited out­side the coun­try to re­place de­clin­ing num­bers of Cana­dian stu­dents. In many univer­si­ties, for­eign stu­dents ac­count for more than 20 per cent of the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion.

Study and Stay pro­vides sup­ports for up to 50 in­ter­na­tional stu­dents dur­ing their fi­nal year of post-sec­ondary stud­ies. The pro­gram in­cludes ca­reer men­tor­ing and ac­cess to em­ploy­ment op­tions. There is also a sub­sidy to help lo­cal em­ploy­ers off­set the cost of hir­ing stu­dents for a work-term after they grad­u­ate.

The N.S. pro­gram will now be adapted to meet the spe­cific needs of other At­lantic prov­inces. As P.E.I. Pre­mier Wade MacLauch­lan noted, it’s es­sen­tial for all At­lantic prov­inces to fo­cus on mea­sures that will in­crease their pop­u­la­tions, which in turn would help their economies to grow. It’s com­mon for im­mi­gra­tion pro­grams to ex­pe­ri­ence low up­take num­bers in year one, and it can of­ten take sev­eral years to fully ramp up.

The for­eign stu­dent pro­gram of­fers lots of po­ten­tial for At­lantic Canada. It might start off slowly, but the re­wards are well worth the in­vest­ment.

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