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Helping local employers deal with provincial labour crunch

Pictured at centre is Iman Tewfik, a Memorial engineering student from Ethiopia, chatting with employers at a recent labour market event.

 

By Geoff Ash

Many employers in Newfoundland are already feeling the effects of a looming labour shortage, but Memorial University is lending a hand by demonstrating the ease and advantages of hiring international students and graduates.

More than 170 employers, students and community partners gathered at the Clovelly Golf Clubhouse recently to learn more about the increasing shortage and how and why hiring international students and graduates can help them cope.

The breakfast event included a panel discussion with Pamela Toope, director of labour market development with the provincial Department of Advanced Education and Skills; Sonja Knutson, acting director of Memorial's International Centre; and Kamrul Islam, policy and program development specialist with the provincial Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism.

A group of 21 international students also circulated throughout the tables of employers, providing the opportunity to discuss employment-related topics.

During her presentation, Ms. Toope illustrated the factors and consequences behind the province's shrinking workforce including some impressive statistics.
"In total, we're looking at more than 70,000 job openings in the next 10-year-period in Newfoundland and Labrador that will need to be filled," she said.

According to Ms. Toope, the key contributors include an improving economy, a higher rate of retirees, new large-scale development projects, increasing skills demands and a rapid decline of the core working age group. To maintain the provincial workforce under these conditions will require attracting and engaging groups that have not been typically highly involved in the labour force, such as international students and graduates.

Many employers believe that hiring Memorial's international students is complicated, according to Ms. Knutson, but the process requires very little from the employer.

"The work permit process does not fall in any way on the employer. The application process is facilitated through the university. All the employer needs to do is confirm that a student does, in fact, have a valid work permit."

Memorial provides many opportunities for students to enter the workforce. In addition to co-operative education programs, Career Development and Experiential Learning administers many employment programs both on and off-campus, some of which include full or partial wage funding.

Sponsored by Johnson Insurance Inc., the event was a partnership between Career Development and Experiential Learning, the International Centre, Alumni Affairs and Development and the Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism.

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