The current and chronic labour shortage in the NWT is holding many sectors back. It’s a frustrating situation for a business owner, or senior manager, that sees immigration as a potential solution to fill a job opening, but is often tripped up by red tape or slams into a solid wall of bureaucracy.
Savvy operators won’t throw up their hands in frustration and settle for slower growth or cutbacks. A more strategic approach can be adopted by businesses that know there will be a certain amount of employee churn each year. Part of that plan can be to align yourself with a group such as the NWT Chamber of Commerce as it is directly involved with efforts to loosen existing regulations, draw up new rules, or just find ways to better connect with people who have their papers and are ready to move to Canada.
A new initiative is underway locally that directly connects immigrants holding Permanent Residence visas ready to move to Canada with employers in the NWT that have openings to fill.
NWT Chamber of Commerce president Newton Grey is a member of the Yellowknife Immigration Partnership who, along with Conseil de développement économique des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CDÉTNO), is leading the Connecting Canada project that is facilitated through ACCES Employment in Toronto. The Connecting Canada project is based on the premise that if more immigrants knew about opportunities to live, work, and grow in smaller urban and rural communities before they arrived in Canada, more of them would choose to move there.
By introducing pre-arrival immigrants to community members and employers who are motivated to hire immigrants, Connecting Canada helps pre-arrival immigrants learn more about the wide range of communities they could choose to settle in and the services they can access to help them. It’s a two-part process that first allows the community — in this case the entire territory — to pitch its positives to a group of visa holders eligible for pre-arrival services from across the world who have learned about the program.
On May 3, an online virtual meeting was held that attracted 65 immigrants who will be shortly moving to Canada, but have not decided on a destination.
“I first want to say congratulations on making it this far,” Grey said to the partners and immigrants watching the live session. “I know the excitement you must have felt when you got that letter to say that you are now welcome to come to Canada as a permanent resident, but that excitement now raises the question, where do I go?
“And I’m telling you the only place to be is in the Northwest Territories.”
At the start of the hour-long session, only three-per cent of the group indicated they had heard of the NWT, let alone thought of moving here. At the end, 50 had stayed connected and of those, 87 per cent indicated they were now interested in moving to the territory.
“Some of you might be thinking of starting your own business,” said Grey. “And there are so many opportunities right now for new businesses (and there are also) people who are retiring and want to sell their businesses.”
But as for people just looking for a job? “Every time I speak to members throughout the 33 communities that make up the Northwest Territories, I hear about a need.”
Job outlines from NWT businesses to be considered for this free service are now being accepted and the second Connecting Canada session takes place on May 26. This is where local employers can have their job descriptions posted and be connected to potential employees in-person online and receive resumes. It’s been likened to speed dating for jobs.
“So if if there’s any NWT Chamber member who has a position that they’re looking (to fill), these are people who have gone through the immigration process already. They are coming to Canada with or without you and It won’t cost you a penny, you don’t have to pay immigration, anything,” Grey told our board at its meeting on May 17.
“If you have a vacancy to fill, it might be a nice place to come on and advertise your job. And you’ll be able to do the first interview right there. And if this goes well, it attracts them to land in Yellowknife and our communities as opposed to landing in Toronto and waiting for six months to decide that it’s not working in Toronto and they want to come to the North.”
This is the type of behind-the-scenes work chambers of commerce engage in that isn’t as recognizable as member networking get-togethers or public seminars and conventions. This is especially true for the NWT Chamber, as we represent all regions of the territory, so a lot of time is spent on advocacy, member relations and public education.
“I was born in the Caribbean, and moved to Canada — like many people I thought the wise thing to do would be to live in a big city,” an enthusiastic Grey said in his presentation. “So I moved to Ontario. But then I moved to the Northwest Territories — best decision I’ve ever made! I’ve never one day regretted it. And I guarantee you, if you make that decision, you will never regret it.”
Please feel free to contact Grey for more information at: email@example.com or myself at: firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a short movie showing Grey making his pitch for the NWT at: nwtchamber.com