Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Temporary foreign worker Brian O'Donnell, from Ireland, carries a sheet of cladding while working on the construction of a new police station in Edmonton on April 30, 2012. In Alberta's stretched labour market, some employers have had to turn to overseas labour. (Jason Franson/Jason Franson for The Globe and Mail)
Temporary foreign worker Brian O'Donnell, from Ireland, carries a sheet of cladding while working on the construction of a new police station in Edmonton on April 30, 2012. In Alberta's stretched labour market, some employers have had to turn to overseas labour. (Jason Franson/Jason Franson for The Globe and Mail)

The Immigrant Answer

Is Canada's brand strong enough to attract the immigrants it wants? Add to ...

Back in Winkler, a committee approved a final list of applicants, the first of whom will arrive this summer. In the fall, Winkler plans another recruiting trip, this time to Moscow and including a contingent of employers.

Stefania's choice: job offer is ‘most important'

To some extent, this is a step-by-step process; each successful recruitment strategy, from word of mouth, to networking, to face-to-face hires creates an opportunity for another.

For Stefania Cruz, her final decision, she says, will also come down to logistics: which country (and employer) signals that it wants her the most. Ultimately, she is pragmatic: “I want to work in the industry,” particularly in quality control and production. “The job offer is most important.”

For Sander de Block, the personal approach – and the genuine interest shown by Nova Scotia representatives – has won him over: “In most places, it stops with being wined and dined, getting a nice brochure, or a tax rebate,” he says. In Nova Scotia, he says, the conversation was also about fostering his company's innovation.

As for Mr. Cross, he isn't even in Canada and already he is serving as ambassador for his adopted land. Last weekend, in his country home about 30 kilometres west of Dublin, he played host to a Canadian-style barbecue for a handful of other families also en route to Saskatchewan.

“I feel like I won the lotto,” he says of the job awaiting him.

Back in Lloydminster, his new employer echoes the sentiment: The Irish trip, Leonard Conlon says, “was the best thing that happened to me.”

And looking to the future, Canada needs to make connections like this happen much more often.

‘Innovation Idol’

Last year, venture-capital fund Innovacorp conducted the Nova Scotia Cleantech Open, a global competition that offered, among other incentives, $100,000 for the best non-polluting tech proposal by a company either in the province or willing to set up shop there.

As well as advertising online, Innovacorp actively sought out candidates around the world – which was no mean feat, according to investment manager Thomas Rankin. “It's hard enough to find an entrepreneur in your backyard.”

The results: 65 submissions from China, the Caribbean and Europe, as well as several fledgling local companies, one of which was the eventual winner. Still, Innovacorp has stayed in contact with other finalists – and raised the profile of Nova Scotia as a hub for clean-tech development.

The personal touch

This summer, Edmonton's economic development agency will conduct a marketing campaign in the U.S. to attract unemployed, skilled workers, taking along a contingent of oil sands employers looking for thousands of engineers, mechanics and welders.

To sell the idea of moving to Canada, the recruiters will rely on a combination of the familiar “quality of life” pitch and a solid message about just how big Alberta natural-resource projects are.

“No one really understands the order of magnitude in the oil sands,” says Mike Wo, executive director of the Edmonton Economic Development Corp. “We want them to understand it's a massive undertaking and there are literally, dozens and dozens of employers who would be thrilled to have them.”

The agency is going so far as to fly in potential hires to show them what Edmonton is like. Pooling their resources, employers will cover the cost of group flights so that candidates can check out the city, from its housing and university to the quality of its golf courses.

The brain gain

Next month, a federal advisory panel will publish a report proposing how Canada can improve its recruiting of international students – an initiative supported by $10-million from Ottawa.

Meanwhile, universities and provinces go it alone – attending education fairs abroad, targeting certain regions (India, in particular), expanding their social-media presence and building research ties with foreign universities.

Recruiting consultant Gardiner Wilson says that attracting foreign students “serves any number of positive objectives.” But other countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia, have become rivals and, he says, Canada “got a slow start. ... It's a bit tricky when there is no department to take on the role at a national level.”

To fill the void, several provinces have special sections within their education ministries, such as the Manitoba International Education Council.

Sending students abroad is also a major part of Canada's strategy as countries are more open to two-way exchanges. Brazil recently announced a $1.65-billion initiative to send 100,000 science students to foreign schools, including 12,000 to Canada. It will pay their way with tax dollars and corporate contributions – provided that they agree to return home.

— With files from Tavia Grant and James Bradshaw

To find out what immigration looks like in your community, see an interactive look at solutions to Canada's immigration problem and share your own story click here.

Single page

Follow on Twitter: @ErinAnderssen

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories