West Kootenay immigrant program wins award

A program that helps match skilled foreign workers to businesses and organizations in the West Kootenay has received recognition for its work.

The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) was this year’s recipient of Community Futures British Columbia’s Award for Excellence and Innovation.

Begun in 2020, the community-led immigration program’s goal is to spread the benefits of economic immigration to communities outside large metropolitan centres.

Over 125 businesses in the West Kootenay have used the pilot to support existing employees or hire skilled foreign workers to support their workforce needs. Jobs have been filled in areas like healthcare, trades, childcare, professional services, and hospitality.

Many of the workers using the program are already in the area, taking courses as international students at Selkirk College. The program has helped smooth their transition from studies to permanent employment.

Over 350 newcomers have also been supported in applying for their permanent residency in Canada.

The program has been running in Nelson, Nakusp, Kaslo, the RDCK, Castlegar and other regional communities. Applicants to the RNIP must be planning to work/live long term in the West Kootenay region, and meet federal and community-specific criteria.

The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot is offered in 11 communities across Canada, in partnership with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Originally set to end after three years, the West Kootenay pilot was extended earlier this year, and will continue until August 2024. Candidate businesses and employees will now have until February 2024 to apply for the program.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice