A pilot program to attract newcomers to Thunder Bay has been so successful, it’s been extended by two years.
Originally slated to run between 2019 and 2022, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program has been given the green light to run until 2024, under the guidance of the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC).
Under the extension, the program’s catchment area will expand to include Thunder Bay’s surrounding communities.
“There is no slowing down — the RNIP has huge potential to bring more skilled workers to the Northwest region,” said Jamie Taylor, CEO of the Thunder Bay CEDC, in a Jan. 9 news release.
“Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario is a great place to live, and we anticipate a continuous increase of candidates in the 2023 allotment of recommendations from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.”
In 2022, the CEDC selected 281 foreign skilled workers for permanent residents, who secured full-time, permanent positions with 144 businesses and organizations. That well surpasses the commission’s initial goal of selecting 250 workers.
The commission said top sectors included food services, retail, and health care, noting that most candidates were already living in the community.
Twenty-four candidates arrived from international locations, and that number is expected to grow after the pandemic.
“The recent expansion of the program was welcomed by surrounding communities. Many employers from the new catchment area have already registered and are in the process of using the RNIP to help fill their labour gaps,” said Stacey Platt, a workforce development officer with the Thunder Bay CEDC, in the release.
“We are pleased to see such a quick uptake from employers in the region. Their efforts in recruitment and retention go a long way to assist with newcomer settlement in our region.”
In total, the Thunder Bay CEDC has assisted 213 eligible employers to recruit or retain more than 500 skilled workers, resulting in more than 700 newcomers to the area, a number that includes the successful applicants and their accompanying family members.
Thunder Bay is one of 11 communities that were selected in 2019 to participate in the RNIP, which is an initiative of the federal government.
The other communities include North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, and Timmins, as well as Gretna-Rhineland-Altona-Plum Coulee, Man.; Brandon, Man.; Moose Jaw, Sask.; Claresholm, Alta.; West Kootenay, B.C.; and Vernon, B.C.
The project’s goal is to attract new people to these communities to fill in labour gaps, which are growing as the Canadian population ages and the birth rate declines.