The City of Sault Ste. Marie wants to hire a full-time co-ordinator to run the Rural Northern Immigration Pilot program aimed at attracting skilled workers from outside Canada to fill local labour needs.
"In order to take full advantage of the RNIP program, the team has identified the need for a dedicated resource, an RNIP coordinator, to assist with moving the pilot project forward, as well as resources for a targeted marketing campaign and resources to assist with managing the program," said Travis Anderson, the city's director of tourism and community development.
Anderson is asking FedNor's Northern Ontario Development Program (NODP) to provide half a million dollars to support the salary of a program coordinator and develop an in-person, video, digital and print advertising campaign promoting high-quality careers available in the Sault with low cost of living, good work/life balance and opportunities for outdoor adventure and higher education.
If approved, the $500,000 in FedNor cash is expected to get the city through the pilot project's first year.
"Staff are currently in discussions with other funding partners for funding related to subsequent years of the program," Anderson says.
"The FedNor... funding will help to address the staffing gap in this area and allow us to retain a staff resource dedicated to the pursuit of matching skilled applications with local employer needs," Anderson says in a memorandum to Mayor Provenzano and City Council.
"The funds will also be utilized for the development of a strategic community attraction campaign with a focus on attracting and retaining skilled workers, as well as the overall management and administration of the RNIP program."
Even before the pilot program went live on the Immigration Canada website on Nov. 18, 2019, Sault Ste. Marie city officials had received 3,000 résumés and 4,500 expressions of interest.
The interest has continued over the months since then.
"To date, without advertising, we have received over 20,000 expressions of interest and approximately 4,000 réeumée," Anderson says, adding: "We anticipate these numbers to spike once we begin to promote the program."
"In addition to the managing the applicant caseload, there are extensive reporting and approval requirements from RNIP."
The City of Sault Ste. Marie, working with Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp. and the Local Immigration Partnership is one of 11 host communities selected for RNIP.
The others are:
- North Bay, Ont.
- Sudbury, Ont.
- Timmins, Ont.
- Thunder Bay, Ont.
- Brandon, Man.
- Altona/Rhineland, Man.
- Moose Jaw, Sask.
- Claresholm, Alta.
- Vernon, B.C.
- West Kootenay (Trail, Castlegar, Rossland, Nelson), B.C.
"The RNIP is a community-driven program. It is designed to spread the benefits of economic immigration to smaller communities by creating a path to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers who want to work and live in one of the participating communities," Anderson says.
Mayor Christian Provenzano and MP Terry Sheehan pushed hard to get Sault Ste. Marie included in RNIP, citing significant challenges posed by the city's demographic profile.
"There will be 1.5 times as many people leaving the workforce than there are available to enter it in the coming years," Anderson says.
"With over a quarter of the workforce older than 55, local employers will be looking to replace up to 9,000 workers in the coming years."
"In addition, provincial net migration, which is the difference between individuals migrating into and out of a region, has been negative for northeastern Ontario since 2001, and it is those aged 20-29 who are leaving."
"In that respect," Anderson says, "the RNIP will play a central role in Sault Ste. Marie’s campaign of attracting skilled workers from outside of Canada to fill their current labour needs in areas such as information technology, health care, aviation, hospitality, manufacturing and the skilled trades, alongside efforts to repatriate former residents and develop the skills of our youth."
In October, city officials announced that Alexander Nangpukin Likilasua and Brilla Mercy Kunjumon, both working in the Sault as licensed practical nurses, were the first two individuals in Canada approved for permanent residency under the program.
Likilasua, originally from Ghana, and Kunjumon, originally from India, both studied in Sault College's registered practical nursing program.