The province has recognized the City of Grande Prairie as an Immigration Attraction Community Designation through the Rural Renewal Stream that hopes to fill local labour gaps.
The Rural Renewal Stream, a partnership between the province and the city, will allow the city to work with local employers to endorse immigrant job seekers and fast-track them to permanent residency, says the city.
“It's an opportunity for the city to work with our employers to address their current labour needs through efficient pathways while also ensuring that those that come through the program and newcomers to our community have the support and resources that they need to succeed,” said Rebecca Dodd, city economic development manager.
“Grande Prairie is a welcoming, entrepreneurial community that has a strong history of drawing newcomers from across Alberta, Canada and the world,” said Jackie Clayton, Grande Prairie mayor.
“The program gives Grande Prairie the advantage to attract and retain an international workforce to jobs in our community while working with local partners to support newcomers as they adjust to life in Alberta’s northwest.”
The city will work with community partners such as the Grande Prairie Centre for Newcomers and the Council for Lifelong Learning as well as the Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce that will be responsible for identifying eligible employers and endorsing candidates who are a good fit for the community.
Dodd says the community groups in Grande Prairie ensure essential needs such as finding grocery stores, transportation, and cultural associations make the city attractive to newcomers.
The program will see employers who have searched for workers locally, provincially and nationally who still have vacancies to fill.
The labour gap in the region is significant, said Dodd, who noted that a regional market strategy was recently completed in collaboration with the County of Grande Prairie, M.D. of Greenview, the Grande Prairie Chamber of Commerce and Northwestern Polytechnique.
“One of the areas where in particular we're seeing interest is around food service and retail service at sort of that supervisory level or management level,” said Dodd.
She said the hospitality industry and skilled trades also need workers.
“This is a good opportunity to help multiple industries and multiple employers within the city.”
The province says there are over 100,000 job vacancies in the province, with 78 per cent of Alberta businesses reporting shortages.
Support from employers will need to be in place for workers coming to work in the city, says Dodd.
“We're getting lots of applications from employers, and we're working through those right now. Just making sure that we've covered all of our bases and that they are prepared to take on the responsibility of supporting newcomers to the community,” she said.
The city says that employers will be required to demonstrate that supports are in place to welcome newcomers in a workplace free of discrimination.
Employers then will need to apply for the program through the city, and then the application will be reviewed by the community partners.
If approved, the employer's job vacancy will then be posted on the city website's job posting board.
Candidates can then apply for the job directly to the employer.
If an employer decides to offer a job to the candidate, the employer will apply to the city and community partnerships for a letter of endorsement for the candidate.
The candidate can then be added to the provincial community partnership database.
Turnaround on city applications is expected to be quick, said Dodd.
The city hopes to complete employer applications within three weeks of receiving them.
Since the program's launch on Aug. 15, nine applications have been submitted.
Grande Prairie is the second community to receive the designation and the biggest.
The Aug. 15 announcement came the same day the province announced its Alberta is Calling campaign in Toronto and Vancouver. It looks to attract skilled and educated workers from Canadian city centres. The $2.6 million provincial campaign highlights Alberta having the highest average wages in the country, lower costs for homeownership, shorter average commute times, and offers career opportunities in emerging and growing industries.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News