West Kootenay Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Regional Coordinator, Erin Rooney, holds the Community Futures British Columbia Award for Excellence and Innovation. Photo: Submitted

West Kootenay Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Regional Coordinator, Erin Rooney, holds the Community Futures British Columbia Award for Excellence and Innovation. Photo: Submitted

West Kootenay immigration pilot receives award for excellence

Pilot addresses labour shortages by helping employers hire and retain foreign workers

Submitted

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

A project of Community Futures Central Kootenay, the pilot helps local employers attract and retain foreign workers for in-demand jobs within the West Kootenay region, which includes Trail and Rossland.

Since the launch in 2020, 126 West Kootenay employers have used the pilot to hire skilled workers in health care, trades, childcare, professional services, and hospitality.

“We’ve helped more than 200 people secure permanent residency for themselves and their immediate family members,” explained Erin Rooney, the pilot regional coordinator. “Most of the workers are already here and they want to stay long term. Although we also work with people interested in moving from overseas if they have a verified job offer for an in-demand field.”

Many of the workers using the program are international students who completed their studies at Selkirk College and found jobs in the region.

Without the program, it would be more challenging for them to stay and work here.

“Our local businesses need this new stream of workers to fill their job vacancies, as older workers retire and many industries are feeling the pressure of labour shortages,” said Andrea Wilkey, Executive Director of Community Futures Central Kootenay. “We launched the pilot just before the pandemic, and it’s become a lifeline for many businesses that would otherwise have jobs sitting vacant.”

Rebecca Richards, director of the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation, said about 50 workers recommended for permanent residency through the pilot have jobs in the Trail-Rossland area.

“The pilot helps them with the immigration process, so they can live and work here long-term,” Richards said. “It’s a win-win for the workers and the employers.”

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

Its mission is to spread the economic benefits of immigration to communities outside large metropolitan centers.

The West Kootenay regional pilot is delivered by Community Futures Central Kootenay with support from the BC’s Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior of BC.

Originally set to end after three years, the West Kootenay pilot was recently extended for two more years and will continue until August 2024.

To learn more visit: wk-rnip.ca.

Community Futures Central Kootenay is a not-for-profit community economic development organization, committed to helping people in the Central Kootenay region who are either operating or are planning to start their own business.

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