Thousands of skilled workers have recently applied to work in Halifax, after a tour of international job fairs had far more success than expected.
The Halifax Partnership, the city's public-private economic development organization, attended job fairs in November and December alongside the provincial and federal governments. The events were in London, Paris, Toronto, and Rabat, Morocco.
Wendy Luther, Partnership CEO, said they initially thought a target of 1,000 applications for 35 job offers from Halifax companies was ambitious.
But then 4,000 applications came in.
"To receive four-fold what we were hoping for was very motivating," Luther said.
The effort was part of a pilot project funded by the municipality, which committed $200,000 to have the Partnership focus on recruiting tradespeople to come work in Halifax.
The Partnership said most of the jobs they were offering were in construction. From the pool of 4,000, about one-third of the applications were from tradespeople, while others were from workers in information technology, manufacturing, business and financial sectors.
Wendy Luther, president and CEO of Halifax Partnership, said recruiters were surprised by the number of applications they received from workers outside Nova Scotia. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)
They're now going through the pile of applications, and will try to match as many people as possible with local jobs, Luther said. The Partnership said they hope to see 1,000 people eventually immigrate to Halifax from this pool.
Part of the project required the Partnership to help employers find housing options for workers when they arrive, given the ongoing housing crisis in Halifax. Luther said they are working with local construction companies to consider putting modular housing on or near job sites.
"These individuals can live very close to where they work until they bring those buildings on stream," Luther said.
Luther said a few factors set Halifax apart at these fairs: going with job offers in hand, and having their own licensed immigration consultant and international recruiter. The international recruiter was hired for this project, and Luther said she has made a big difference in helping people navigate red tape to find the right immigration stream.
As Halifax continues rapidly growing, expecting to hit the half-million mark this year, Luther said it's clear many more tradespeople are needed to construct the buildings and infrastructure to support that growth.
A new employment outlook from Service Canada estimates Nova Scotia will have more than 7,000 job openings in trades and transport over the next two years, with nearly three-quarters arising because of attrition.
"We are not going to solve our challenges by closing our doors," Luther said.
"We're going to solve our challenges by bringing more people who can build the homes that we need, that can open the businesses that keep our cities compelling and vibrant, that keep our young people here."
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said he's pleased to see such a "very significant" level of interest come from the recruitment program.
Savage said he feels immigration is important, but repeated his call for a new fiscal framework. He said municipalities should be getting a share of provincial and federal taxes to pay for rising infrastructure and service costs.
"It's not right that the order of government, which is us, that pays for 60 per cent of the infrastructure collects less than 10 per cent of the taxes — and yet we're the engines of economic growth," Savage said.
The province has set a growth target of two million people by 2060.
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