JIS News

Recruiters from six different Canadian-based companies, seeking to address labour shortages in the construction, hospitality and the health care service sectors in British Columbia, conducted interviews with Jamaican workers at a job fair held on the weekend.
The two-day event was arranged by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security through its Canadian Overseas Employment Programme (COEP), and was held at the Ministry’s East Street offices.
Approximately 170 workers, who were screened and pre-selected by the Ministry, turned up for interviews with the Canadian employers on day one of the fair on Friday (Oct. 19). In the batch were 30 certified construction workers, comprising pipe-fitters, welders, and carpenters, as well as a group of certified practical nurses.
Canadian industrial construction firms, JV Driver, which has been active in the forestry, oil and gas industries in British Columbia and Alberta, and LEDCOR Construction, came with expectations to find 300 and 100 workers, respectively.
Two nursing services contractors, Interior Health Authority and the Good Samaritan Society, sought to fill vacancies for practical nurses on a pilot project basis, while Hotel Manteo screened for 22 hotel workers. Commercial window washing company, SunValley Windows, interviewed 15 persons pulled from the COEP database, for job openings.
Labour Minister, Pearnel Charles, speaking at the opening ceremony held at his North Street offices, expressed pleasure with the investment of the Canadian employers in the Jamaican workers. “We’re happy, we’re overjoyed. In this global competition for labour, we are proud that you.have selected Jamaica and the Jamaican people as the way forward,” he told the employers.
He pledged the government’s commitment to removing all obstacles “to make you move forward” so that Jamaicans can access other upcoming job opportunities.
The Labour Minister further urged the workers selected to be good ambassadors and representatives of the country. “You represent us; you represent the hard work of all of us. We expect nothing but the best,” he stated, while expressing pride at the positive performance reports of the first batch of 11 young construction workers sent to British Columbia in September. “We promise you, we’re going to send better, no less,” he told the Canadian employers.
The collaboration between Jamaica and Canada to provide certified, skilled workers to British Columbia came out of an initiative by the Economic Development Commission (EDC) for Central Okanagan to fill labour needs in the province, as the result of an aging population.
Robert Fine, Executive Director, EDC, pointed out that although British Columbia is the fastest growing province in Canada, the aging population of Kelowna has slowed economic growth.
“The primary reason our economic growth is slowing is we have no labour force so we’ve got this incredible demand for construction, health care services, tourism, and we are having tremendous difficulty trying to recruit workers,” he said.
He noted that the Canadian government will be investing CAN$8 billion in development projects in the region up to 2012. “That’s a lot of work that’s going to need a lot of workers,” he predicted.
He said that the agreement with Jamaica, “is giving our businesses and our communities an opportunity to deal with some of our demography challenges and at the same time provide viable employment for Jamaicans and global experience.”
Turning to the partnership between the Okanagan College and the HEART/NTA, to ensure the certification of workers so that they will be ready to go directly into the workforce once they arrive in Canada, Mr. Fine said that this has been working “extremely well”.
A high level delegation of academicians from the Okanagan College, who came with the mission, called on Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, to discuss the partnership, which also facilitates the transfer of students between the two countries, starting this academic year. The first batch of Jamaican students was enrolled at Okanagan College in September.
Professor Steve Koehle, Vice President for International Education at Okanagan College, said that the integration of the curriculum of the HEART Trust/NTA with that of the college is an issue that will be explored under the partnership.
Over the years, Jamaicans have been recruited to work in Ontario, Montreal, Quebec and New Brunswick on the Overseas Farm Work Programme. This is the first time that employees are being requested for the hospitality, health care and construction sectors. Canada will be recruiting some 2,000 practical nurses by the end of 2008.
Persons applying to work in hospitality and construction must have the minimum level 2 certification from the HEART/Trust NTA, while practical nurses are expected to possess the relevant qualification.