Thompson-Okanagan Team Takes to the World Stage to Address Workforce Shortages

To address the lack of skilled workers in the Thompson-Okanagan, three of the region’s key economic development groups came together as a delegation to Emigration Expo 2023 in Houten, Netherlands. Their mission was two-fold: to showcase the Thompson-Okanagan as a desirable place to find work in Canada, and to give employers a helping hand with international recruitment.

The Regional Workforce Development project is a collaborative initiative between Venture Kamloops, the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society (SAEDS), and the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission (COEDC). The Economic Trust of the Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) supported the project through its Building Economic Development Capacity funding stream.

“Our employers need to be competitive and use new methods and talent pools to find the people they need to grow,” explains Nicole Bruce, Economic Development Manager for Venture Kamloops. “International recruitment is a key tool for Canadian companies to fill skilled talent roles.”

Approximately 12,000 visitors attend the Houten expo every year seeking information on living, working, studying and entrepreneurship opportunities in other countries. Data shows that for those who successfully emigrate to Canada, the majority stay in major metropolitan cities. Marketing the entire Thompson-Okanagan region at the expo connected these workers with communities and employers they may not have explored otherwise.”

Seamless Navigation of immigration Programs

“We spoke to approx. 800 people and administered brochures, QR codes and provided a Thompson Okanagan presentation to over 100 people, says Bruce. “The challenge to know how far reaching this information goes in helping people make decision like a visit, finding jobs in our region and then relocating is difficult to measure.  Often, they will connect directly with employers through job postings attached to the QR code we administer, and we will never know about it.”

“Our regional delegation had far more impact than one community alone could have at an event of this scope,” says Bruce. The team shared a sizeable booth near others staffed by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), and the BC Provincial Nominee Program (BCPNP). The delegation included Nicole Kleemaier of Red Moose Immigration Services who provided translation, planning, and on-site support to the team.

“Many employers lack the time and understanding to navigate the immigration programs that best fit their needs,” says Bruce. “Being close to the BCPNP and IRCC meant job seekers could talk with us about the region and jobs, then step over to the other booths for information on how to go about the immigration process.”  

When the delegation returned to Canada, the Thompson-Okanagan webpage created specifically for the show received 272 visits with 40 serious prospects uploading their information. Eight prospects eventually spoke to employers, and two travelled to Kamloops to interview and see the region. These are just some examples of the outcomes of this collaboration.

Bruce added, “We do know our efforts are paying off because a couple who visited our booth at the emigration expo followed up with a trip to the region and recently, we helped them find employment. Now they are moving to Kamloops with job offers from employers in their field of expertise! They have actively applied through the proper immigration pathway to move to Kamloops permanently and are expected to arrive in the early summer.”

Team Approach to Future Emigration Fairs

Venture Kamloops continues to work with the SAEDS, COEDC and the BCPNP on attending future expos as a group. The Vernon Economic Development Association has now also joined the collaboration. A 2024-25 work strategy is in development with a more sector-specific approach to recruitment and additional marketing materials are being created. “No matter which cities participate with us, we can represent the region as a whole,” says Bruce.

“Talent attraction is a long game,” she adds. “With the support of ETSI-BC, we now have a model to keep the Thompson-Okanagan top of mind with skilled workers wanting to settle in Canada.”

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