Immigration minister goes to Ireland to sell Canada to young workers

Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney REUTERS/Chris WattieThe global financial collapse that skinned the Celtic Tiger has forced the Irish to resort to an age-old remedy: emigration.

Canada, a destination for Irish immigrants for centuries, is once again looking attractive as Ireland struggles to crawl out from under effects of economic catastrophe. And Canada's federal government is actively wooing skilled Irish workers, especially young ones.

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Citizenship, Immigration and Multicultural Minister Jason Kenney was in Dublin last week to spearhead a Canadian effort to nearly double the number of Irish youth admitted annually under the International Experience Canada program.

His department said in a news release that the current quota of spaces will grow to 6,350 next year, an increase of 1,000, and reach 10,000 at the beginning of 2014.

Under the program — which includes a reciprocal agreement for Canadian youth going to Ireland — Irish citizens aged 18 to 35 can travel and work in Canada for up to two years. The previous program allowed participants to come for two one-year stints, which proved disruptive because it forced people to quit their jobs and leave Canada to reapply.

Kenney also talked up his country at a Dublin job fair that drew thousands of Irish residents considering a move to Canada, Australia and other countries.

"We are trying to raise the profile of Canada because we have seen huge numbers of highly educated young Irish going to Australia," Kenney told the Toronto Star before he left for Ireland. "So this is a test drive on our effort to have a more proactive recruitment-based immigration system."

Kenney even appeared on Ireland's popular TV chat program the Late Late Show, to talk up the program, tweeting a photo.

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The web site iPolitics reported Kenney told host Ryan Tubridy that Irish newcomers have plenty of opportunities in Canada, especially in the West. Ireland is a particularly good place for Canadian companies to recruit, he said.

"Well, the employers in Canada are increasingly identifying Ireland as a great source of talent, hard-working, highly-educated folks who are culturally compatible," Kenney said.

"They can walk in and get to work the day they arrive, so it's just I think a natural choice for the employers."

That was echoed by Mary Moran of Calgary Economic Development, who told the Irish Times that the job fair had exceeded expectations.

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"Irish workers are a very good match for Canadian companies," she said. "They have the skills we need, are similarly educated to Canadian employees and there's no language barrier."

Clearly some young people who come to Canada on what's known as the "working holiday" program might want to stay for good, but Kenney said Canada isn't using Ireland's troubles to poach the country's young talent.

Instead, he told a seminar that young people could gain valuable experience in Canada and bring back skills to Ireland to help rebuild its economy, the Irish Times reported.