June 16th, 2024

Program launched to help fill local labour shortage

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on May 30, 2023.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Trevor Lewington of Economic Development Lethbridge, announced a new program that is aimed at offering workers the opportunity to immigrate to Alberta as a provincial nominee with support of the municipal government.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

A new program to help businesses in several key areas find qualified staff launched here on Friday.

The program, media was told in a press conference hosted by Trevor Lewington of Economic Development Lethbridge, will offer eligible workers the opportunity to immigrate to this province as a provincial nominee with support of the municipal government.

EDL has obtained a designation for the City of Lethbridge under the Rural Renewal Stream of the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program.

EDL will administer the program, Lewington said, with oversight coming from a community partnership council which consists of EDL, Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, Lethbridge Family Services, Lethbridge Construction Association and Flexibility Learning Systems.

It’s estimated there are about 6,000 job vacancies in the Lethbridge-Medicine Hat corridor and employers are finding challenges filling them, media was told.

The program is specifically designed for non-resident job candidates who are seeking to obtain residency in the city. They must have previous experience working in this country in specific occupations and jobs.

The designated industries which can apply to the Lethbridge Rural Renewal Community Partnership are in manufacturing, construction and engineering, the latter which includes architectural engineering and related services.

More than 500 city businesses could potentially apply to be part of the program. From start of application to the finish, it could take three months for a company to hire an employee.

Adriana Mercader, the CEO of Flexahopper Plastics who came to Canada 14 years ago, said immigrants bring diversity to the community. The program is one which can help businesses like hers in the manufacturing sector offer jobs and perhaps a potential pathway to permanent residency in Canada.

“It’s very hard to fill vacancies; keeping people is very hard right now,” Mercader said.

“This is great for the city.”

The program, she said, will give workers a chance to establish permanent roots in Canada.

Businesses that are approved by the partnership can then submit job opportunities. The partnership will either approve or deny the submission. Approved positions will be posted on the Lethbridge Rural Renewal Program Job Board after which qualified candidates will be able to apply..

The program is being limited to three sectors because demand exceeds the resources in place to facilitate it. As a result, entry has been “limited to private sector applicants in wealth-generating industries that produce goods as well as industries with a core focus on innovation and industry 4.0 concepts. The partnership council will monitor the volume of applications and could amend the eligibility criteria as the program evolves,” said the EDL in a question-answer page in a media kit.

Employers who are approved for the program must still demonstrate that they’ve made efforts to fill vacancies locally. This means vacant positions must be posted for at least two weeks.

The program will provide businesses with an opportunity hire a candidate with temporary status “that would otherwise be prohibited from hiring under current federal or provincial temporary work programs. It also represents an opportunity to bring new individuals to Lethbridge,” says the EDL.

Potential employees may already be in Canada under temporary foreign worker permits or some other stream, Lewington told media.

Ukrainian nationals who have come to Lethbridge to escape their war-torn homeland are eligible as long as they have a valid temporary status and meet program requirements.

The Lethbridge workforce, says the EDL, is a diverse one which has seen a shift during the past three years. Those changes are due to various factors including “a hangover from pandemic-related effects on the workforce” as well as changing consumer habits and changing demands in tools and skills.

As of February, there were 71,600 people employed in the Lethbridge Census Metropolitan Area. The unemployment rate here is below the provincial and national levels which while beneficial also means employers may have a harder time finding staff.

The biggest employers here are the wholesale and retail trade with 12,900 jobs, health care and social assistance which provide 10,400 people with employment, educational services – 6,900 jobs, manufacturing which employs 6,400 people and construction which has 5,200 workers.

A second program being launched is the Rural Entrepreneur Stream of the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program. This allows EDL on behalf of the city to “potentially” nominate entrepreneurs who want to start a new business here or invest in an existing one.

The EDL says this stream will “promote economic growth by attracting immigrants who can start new ventures or assist with succession planning for businesses with owners looking to either retire or move on.”

A number of requirements are mandated by the provincial government for potential investors including:

• Must have a minimum of three years experience as an active business owner or manager;

• Minimum of high school equivalent to the Canadian standard is also necessary at the time of application;

• Minimum Canadian Language Benchmark level of 4 for each English language skill: reading, writing, listening and speaking;

• Minimum net worth of $300,000 where all assets are the candidate’s own personal holdings or that of their spouse;

• Minimum ownership of 51 per cent of a new business or 100 per cent ownership for business succession.

If EDL is satisfied a proposed business will benefit the community, it will make an invitation for a mandatory in-person exploratory visit. After the visit, the entrepreneur will provide to the EDL a copy of the updated business proposal for further review.

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