To meet the current and future needs for skilled workers, the Saskatchewan government has adopted an aggressive three-part labour force strategy that includes developing knowledge and skills of Saskatchewan youth with a focus on Aboriginal youth; encouraging workers to come to Saskatchewan from other Canadian jurisdictions; and inviting skilled workers through immigration.
Saskatchewan’s continued economic prosperity and attractive employment market have caught the world’s attention and people are flocking to Saskatchewan in record numbers. The provincial population is higher at 1,086,564 than at any time in history, having grown by 23,024 in the last year alone.
Saskatchewan has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, sitting at 4.0 percent as of January 2012. Add that to record economic growth and the province finds itself facing a skilled labour force shortfall. In our recently released Saskatchewan Plan for Growth – Vision 2020 and Beyond, the government projects 60,000 new jobs in the province by 2020.
Part one of the three-part labour force strategy includes record investment in post-secondary and skills training for Saskatchewan youth, including record investment in employment and skills training for First Nations and Métis people. One of Saskatchewan’s biggest challenges, and a high priority for our government, is to confront the disparity in education and employment outcomes between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population.
We will continue working in partnership with First Nations and Métis people to find practical solutions. For example, in November 2012, the government, working in cooperation with the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce, assisted more than 50 employers to reach out to the hundreds of potential employees who attended an All Nations Job Fair. A key objective of the event was to raise awareness, within the Aboriginal population, of the job opportunities and skills training available in the area and ultimately, to boost Aboriginal employment.
Part two of the strategy is attracting residents from other jurisdictions in Canada. We will continue to market our positive employment environment, high wage potential and quality lifestyle throughout the country. The Saskatchewan government and employers partnered to create a Saskatchewan Zone at both the Toronto and Montreal National Job Fairs in 2012. Not only did employers make dozens of offers, but the Zone also raised awareness of Saskatchewan to potential employees in eastern Canada.
We will continue our national recruitment initiatives and encourage job seekers to visit thinksask.ca or to go directly to the saskjobs.ca website, which is now also accessible through a Facebook page – Saskatchewan Jobs.
The third piece of the strategy focuses on attracting and retaining skilled workers from around the world. We value the contributions immigrants make to renewing our communities and to Saskatchewan’s economic growth.
The Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program has proven very successful, with 4,000 annual nominees. In the last five years, newcomers from over 180 countries have settled in more than 325 communities in Saskatchewan. Not only do these newcomers help to address the critical shortages in high-skilled labour, but they also contribute to the Saskatchewan economy as employers, entrepreneurs and investors.
In cases where the employers have not been successful in recruiting skilled workers within the province, or within Canada, the government of Saskatchewan has become instrumental in assisting employers to connect on an international level with the high-skilled workers they need.
Twenty-seven employers enthusiastically signed on for the 2012 Ireland recruitment mission to the Working Abroad Career fairs in Dublin and Cork. Ireland’s high-skilled workforce provides a great recruitment opportunity for our province and the high unemployment rate in Ireland means qualified candidates are looking for the opportunities Saskatchewan can provide.
More than 20,000 people attended the fairs over three days. Saskatchewan had the largest organized presence at the 2012 expo with hundreds of jobs on offer. Our premier, Brad Wall, was instrumental in promoting the Saskatchewan advantage and establishing a positive reputation for the province as a great place to live and work. As a result of this mission, 290 skilled Irish workers and their families arrived in Saskatchewan.
Building on that success, 13 employers joined the second recruitment mission to Ireland in March of this year with hopes of attracting candidates to fill 80 high-skilled vacancies as heavy duty mechanics, welders, machinists and other occupations. Some delegates also made a stop at the job expo in Manchester, England.
With vacancies to fill and candidates to find, the government of Saskatchewan will continue to support employers’ international recruitment efforts as part of our commitment to growing the province and ensuring ongoing prosperity.
The Honourable Bill Boyd is Saskatchewan Minister of the Economy.