Immigration pilot program helping fill North Okanagan jobs during labour shortage

Filling the labour shortage

If you've heard more foreign accents in Vernon lately, there could be a good reason for that.

An immigration pilot program is helping address labour shortages in the North Okanagan.

The Vernon-North Okanagan Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot is one of 11 such programs across the country.

The pilot region includes Vernon, Lake Country, Coldstream, Armstrong, Spallumcheen, Enderby, Lumby, Okanagan Indian Band and Splatsin First Nations.

Three local business that have benefitted from hiring international workers include Silver Star Mountain Resort, KingFisher Boats, and Interior Homecare Solutions.

The employers are sharing their stories in videos to encourage more businesses to consider RNIP.

Skilled workers have been hired from India, Morocco, the United States and other countries.

"This is exactly the type of success we were hoping for in our area as many businesses needed skilled workers to support their growth and long-term viability," says Leigha Horsfield, executive director of Community Futures North Okanagan.

More than 33,000 foreign nationals are ready to apply for full-time permanent jobs through the pilot, which is one of the fastest tracks to permanent residency in Canada.

The pilot, which began in February 2020, has already recommended 132 employees from 36 countries for permanent residency.

The newcomers receive support from Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Support Services Society once they arrive in the community.

Silver Star used the pilot to retain cooks on temporary work permits who want to stay in the Okanagan by applying for permanent residency.

Interior Homecare said the program has helped recruit qualified nurses as the health-care sector has faced hiring challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is funded by the federal government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Province of British Columbia. The Economic Trust of the Southern Interior also provided a grant to fund the development of the online database platform and a marketing plan.

Interested employers should contact co-ordinator Ward Mercer at 250-938-1066.

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