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Federal immigration pilot showing early results in Thunder Bay

Economic development commission recommends 32 newcomers for residency

A federal immigration pilot program is already producing results in attracting and retaining skilled foreign workers in Thunder Bay.

Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) hosted an outdoor event on Aug. 26 to celebrate 32 newcomers to Canada who have received a community recommendation through the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP).

The CEDC recommends people for permanent residence who have the skills and experience that the city needs. Ottawa makes the final decision to approve applications for permanent residence.

Thunder Bay is one of 11 Canadian communities participating in the pilot, designed to help communities attract and retain skilled workers, especially for those employers having difficulty finding locals to fill certain occupations.

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These candidates have received full-time permanent jobs with over 16 local employers and can now apply for their permanent residency.

“With over 30 positions supported in only five months, this program has proven to be very beneficial to both employers and applicants," said Emily Lauzon, the CEDC's workforce development officer, in a news release.

”An employer finds a candidate they want, and we help that employer retain their essential worker. The applicants receive assistance with both their immigration process and settlement into the community. It’s a win-win for Thunder Bay and we are very proud of our success so far," she said.

Each participating city gets to the eligibility guidelines for employers and applications who use the pilot as an avenue to gain residency status.

To qualify, the applicant and employer must have a full-time permanent job in a priority occupation as determined by the CEDC based on local employers’ needs, labour market reports, and labour market projections.

“The economic impacts of this program are vast, building the workforce and filling local labour gaps are essential to the growth of Thunder Bay," said commission CEO Eric Zakrewski in a statement.

"The priority occupations were carefully selected and will be updated over the course of the pilot to ensure relevancy and maximum benefit to our community.”

The CEDC categories the global interest in people wanting to relocate to Thunder Bay as "overwhelming" with "hundreds" of application and inquiries being received every day.

Over the three-year pilot, CEDC has it has the opportunity to make 300 community recommendations, which potentially could result in 300 full-time permanent positions locally.

“Employers are crucial to the success of the pilot because without employers there won’t be any jobs to fill,” said Lauzon.

“Thunder Bay CEDC requires more local employers who are interested in attracting, and/or retaining a foreign skilled worker. The program is easy to navigate, fully supported and free to participate in, not to mention there are enormous benefits for both the community and the employers.”