The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is hoping to boost immigration with two new programs being introduced at Memorial University's Grenfell Campus and the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) in Corner Brook.
During an event at the College of the North Atlantic in Corner Brook on Monday, Immigration, Skills and Labour Minister Gerry Byrne announced the province, with assistance from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Market Development Agreement, is allocating $600,000 over two years to establish an Economic Immigration Ideas Lab in Corner Brook.
The province intends for the lab to bring together leaders in communities, business, labour and post-secondary education to incubate new approaches to recruit and retain immigrants to Newfoundland and Labrador.
It will be located at the Newfoundland and Labrador Workforce Innovation Centre. The lab will be administered by the CNA from its Corner Brook campus.
The province is also providing more than $100,000 for Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus to become a designated Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program testing site.
This will help ensure newcomers to western Newfoundland are able to complete required English language testing.
Tutorials and opportunities will be offered at Grenfell for applicants to prepare for the test as well.
Byrne said access to testing sites has been an issue, as there has been just one in the province, located in St. John’s.
He emphasized that, while the province is funding training for more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to meet labour market demands, there will still be gaps that immigration will need to fill.
“Immigration allows us to take those challenges head on, to fill those gaps with skills that were educated abroad,” he told SaltWire Network. “Our efforts are targeted at skills that are not available in Newfoundland and Labrador, that are not anticipated in Newfoundland and Labrador in the short and medium term, and to be able to attract those kinds of skills to our province.”
Byrne said sectors the province is targeting for immigrant skills include health care, information technology and ocean industries.
A part of the plan
College of the North Atlantic president and CEO Liz Kidd said it is important for the college to be part of the province’s plans to increase immigration.
“We are one of the tools to doing that. Memorial University is the other tool to doing that,” she told SaltWire. “If we bring in students, train them and then send them out into the labour force, then we will prosper.”
Kidd said a number of international students enter business and information technology programs as well as trades.
She said she hopes the college’s international student enrolment numbers will hit triple digits within the next two to three years.
Still, there are challenges to achieving that goal, especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It takes time, it takes working with our partners in other countries, it takes a lot of time and energy,” she said. “COVID has been a challenge in all of this, because we can’t leave the province. So, we’re working remotely with our agents over there.”
Grenfell Campus vice-president Jeff Keshen stressed that immigration is important given the province’s population decline, particularly in western Newfoundland.
It is also necessary for the campus, as enrolment numbers would decrease if the university were to depend solely on domestic enrolments, Keshen said.
“There’s just not enough young people now,” he told SaltWire. “We can reach out to mature students, but the lifeblood is international students.”
He highlighted environment and agriculture as two areas in which the Grenfell Campus is attracting international students.
“A lot of them are going back to their home countries, but if we keep a portion of them here, I think they can be contributors to the province,” Keshen said. “They’re doing some great work, for example, with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper in developing options of how to use waste products for agricultural nutrients. So, these are very bright, engaged people who can contribute to the future of the province.”
The province government aims to increase immigration to 2,500 new permanent residents annually, subject to the established COVID-19 special measures orders and guidelines.
Stephen Roberts is a reporter covering the west coast of Newfoundland.
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