Pilot project to recruit skilled foreign workers expands to Fort Frances

Due to the success of an immigration pilot program placing skilled foreign workers in top sector jobs, the program has been extended to 2024 and will be introduced to Fort Frances this week.

The Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) reported after its third year of administering the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program that they surpassed their goal of selecting 250 foreign skilled workers for employment and permanent residence.

The program allows eligible employers to make full-time permanent job offers to skilled foreign workers who want to work and live in the area. It began in 2019 and since then has connected a total of 281 foreign skilled workers in full-time permanent positions with 144 businesses and organizations within the food services, retail and healthcare sectors.

In 2022, CEDC extended the program to February 2024 and to surrounding communities outside of Thunder Bay.

Angela Halvorsen, business investment manager at the Rainy River Future Development Corporation (RRFDC), said she will be hosting the first information session in Fort Frances taking place on Wednesday, January 11 at Super 8 by Wyndham Fort Frances from 6 to 8:30 pm.

“I think it’s really exciting. It’s something new to this area,” Halvorsen said, adding that so far, 11 people have signed up in Fort Frances, 10 in Emo, and 3 in Rainy River.

The information session, hosted by RRFDC and Thunder Bay CEDC, is targeted toward employers interested in hiring foreign workers. Halvorsen said that through the RNIP project, employers can learn more about the process and paperwork involved in hiring from outside the community.

“And this one is specifically for people immigrating to Canada,” she said. “As well as learn more about the process, and how to do it exactly.

“When you’re looking at bringing people in from outside of the country, there’s an integration process, and sometimes that can be very intimidating because there’s a lot of paperwork, you have to make sure everything’s filled out properly, and then they have to sponsor this person coming in.”

“The idea is to try and sort of cut down some of that red tape,” Halvorsen said, adding that the end goal is to fill the empty work positions in the area.

Two guest speakers—Stacey Platt, a workforce development officer for Thunder Bay CEDC; and Roopa from the Immigration Refugees & Citizenship Canada—will deliver a presentation about the program and address questions both about the program and about the immigration process.

“There is no slowing down, the RNIP has huge potential to bring more skilled workers to the Northwest region,” said Jamie Taylor in a press release, CEO of Thunder Bay CEDC. “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 (IRCC).”

Elisa Nguyen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times