Encouraging international students to live and work in Nova Scotia after they graduate is the aim of a new pilot program to boost immigration to the province.
Under the program, vouchers will be provided to subsidize initial salaries and access to graduate talent will be improved for small and medium-sized businesses.
Students with qualifications aligned to Nova Scotia’s labour market needs will be targeted under the program, named ‘Stay in Nova Scotia – Student Retention to Residency’.
The pilot will focus on 50 students in fields such as health care, entrepreneurship, computer engineering and ocean sciences.
The initial aim is to retain 40 of the 50 graduates, who represent 23 different nationalities, for at least a year in the Nova Scotia workforce. But the long-term target is to see them become permanent residents of Canada within five years, and stay in the province.
“The government understands that immigration is fundamental to building strong communities and improving the region’s ability to compete in the global market,” said Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains.
“International students who stay in the province play a significant role in meeting skill shortages, fueling economic development and improving Nova Scotia’s prospects.”
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil added: “Helping international students stay in Nova Scotia will strengthen our province.
“We want more young people to choose Nova Scotia as a place to live and work after they graduate. This initiative will help make that happen.”
International graduates are regarded as the gold standard of new permanent resident by Immigration Minister John McCallum. With Canadian experience and qualifications, they fit the profile of the type of immigrant that will easily integrate into society.
“Canada is an aging country, so we need new young immigrants to support our economy and help make it grow,” McCallum has said previously.
Numbers of international students have almost doubled since 2008, from just over 184,000 to nearly 355,000 in 2015.
Nova Scotia is one of the Atlantic provinces successfully battling its aging demographic.
Source: Statistics Canada
Population figures show numbers aged under 45 increased in 2016 for the first time in at least five years.
Previously it appeared as though the region would have less under-45s than over-45s by 2016, but the trend has been slowed thanks to innovative immigration policies.
Prince Edward Island is leading the way, with more over-45s now than it had in 2013.
The two other Atlantic provinces, Newfoundland & Labrador and New Brunswick, already have more over-45s than under-45s.
Atlantic Canada’s provincial premiers and the federal government recently announced an initiative to welcome 2,000 more skilled immigrants per year under their Provincial Nominee Programs from 2017.
The move will see an almost 50 per cent rise in the number of candidates welcomed to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador.
Those numbers could increase in 2018 and 2019 if the expansion is viewed as a success.
The new immigrants are expected to be chosen based on the skills required by the respective provinces.
It is part of a new Atlantic Growth Strategy, aimed at boosting the economy in eastern Canada in five priority areas:
- Skilled workforce and immigration
- Clean growth and climate change
- Trade and investment
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