More than 28,000 foreign workers have submitted applications to the North Okanagan’s Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, hoping to find full-time permanent employment in Vernon and other area communities.
This pilot, run by Community Futures North Okanagan, has been used by dozens of businesses to post and hire to fill vacant jobs since it began in 2020. The three-year project is designed to spread the benefits of economic immigration to smaller communities by creating a path to permanent residency for skilled foreign workers.
“North Okanagan businesses are having difficulties finding employees with the skill set they need to grow their business,” Community Futures executive director Leigha Horsfield says. “Supporting employers in addressing their labour needs through this pilot has proven to be really important for all sectors in our economy.”
So far, area employers have hired 80 employees from 27 countries, including India, the Philippines, Mexico, Germany, South Africa, South Korea and Brazil. Additionally, these new hires will bring 87 spouses and children with them to the North Okanagan who will also be able to fill job openings and attend school.
The kinds of positions filled through the RNIP program range from restaurant manager to farm worker to paralegal to veterinarian technician. Interior Home Care is one business that has used the pilot multiple times.
“We were in a shortage of health care aides, and not just us, but everyone in town,” Interior Home Care human resources manager Carol Odagiri says. “The employees we have gotten with the RNIP program absolutely are top drawer. It was probably the best decision I’ve made in several years. I’m very, very supportive of this program. And I would recommend it to anyone who's even thinking of it. I had such great support from Community Futures. I just think it’s been wonderful for Vernon and wonderful for our company.”
“The program is working, and we encourage more businesses to use this program,” says RNIP co-ordinator Ward Mercer, who helps employers to post jobs on the RNIP system, accessing the vast database of job seekers. Mercer also helps new employees navigate the process of becoming a permanent resident after arriving in their North Okanagan community.
However, RNIP is not only for those living outside of Canada. Foreign workers who are already in the region and international students can also take advantage of the RNIP project.
The North Okanagan is one of 11 regions in Canada approved to use RNIP to address labour shortages. The pilot is scheduled to run until December 2022.
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.