Immigration and the Workforce: We All Play a Role

On behalf of the Francophone business community, the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick inc. (CÉNB) finds the Atlantic Growth Strategy interesting, particularly its focus on attracting and retaining skilled workers. A three-year pilot project is to be launched next year to facilitate the entry of 2,000 immigrants to Atlantic Canada, annually. This is good news for the businesses we represent, many of which have an urgent need for skilled workers in order to meet their objectives.

Although the Strategy will address certain needs in terms of population growth, we believe it is important to ensure that it also meets the specific needs of our province’s businesses wherever possible. After taking on my position at the CÉNB in March of this year, I toured the province to visit and meet with entrepreneurs all over New Brunswick. Speaking with them, the same two issues came up again and again: one, gaining access to skilled workers, and two, retaining these workers. Human capital is just as important for the success of our businesses as physical and financial capital. A strategy to attract and retain skilled workers would consequently go a long way toward supporting our businesses’ current efforts to recruit employees.

In light of this, the CÉNB finds that economic immigration (essentially to grow the skilled workforce) is one approach to addressing the shortage of skilled workers. Finding workers who meet the needs of our companies is a process that takes a great deal of time and effort. Hiring new employees can be a complex and time-consuming task under any circumstances. Measures are also required after hiring to assist in integrating workers into the company with a view to retaining them in their positions and, ultimately, the community. Any employer seeking to recruit immigrant workers strives for success in this regard.

Based on studies conducted among Francophone employers in New Brunswick, one tool that may help increase the likelihood of success in hiring is educating prospective candidates about culture and work in Canada and New Brunswick. More awareness would be beneficial for our employers to help them prepare to accommodate foreign workers. It is also important to work collaboratively with our business leaders to develop a clear, concise and simple support process in place for employers that covers aspects ranging from posting vacant positions to integrating the new employees into the company. This should be accompanied by practical support, advice, follow-up and, lastly, tools available to communities throughout the province to assist in integrating and retaining newcomers and their families.

For nearly a year now, the Réseau de développement économique et d’employabilité du Nouveau-Brunswick (RDÉE NB), the economic development arm of the CÉNB, has been working actively at the field level to provide support to employers seeking to acquire skilled workers through immigration. Following consultations with business owners, RDÉE NB has implemented the following services in response to the specific needs of companies: sharing of job postings, targeting and recruitment of Francophone or bilingual candidates, customized support and guidance through the recruiting, screening and hiring processes, and follow-up support for employers and employees to achieve successful integration into the company. I sincerely believe that we all have a role to play through the various stages of the immigration continuum.

Finally, the CÉNB and RDÉE NB are led by diverse teams whose members come from across New Brunswick and around the world. These teams have a wealth of expertise and knowledge and offer a range of visions and professional practices. I am pleased to see this diversity promoting a strong sense of employee engagement, new ideas, outstanding customer service, and timely and effective representation of our businesses in public forums; in short, a broad range of skills having the potential to help drive the economic development of our companies and, above all, our province.

Thomas Raffy is the president and CEO of Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick inc.