Feature

How Immigration Can Help Moncton Tackle Its Labour Market Challenges

Stanislav Olkinitskiy at his business, GoMusic Studio, in Dieppe. Image: Inda Intiar/Huddle

This is the third and final part of a series about the changing face of the growing labour market in Greater Moncton. 

MONCTON – It’s not that there are no jobs in Moncton. Companies like Dream Payments, BMM Testlabs, J.D. Irving and, more recently, Dovico Software, are all planning to hire a total of more than 1,000 people over the next few years.

In fact, according to BMO’s Regional Labour Market Card for the first quarter of 2018 published earlier this week, Moncton saw the number of jobs grow 9.9 per cent in one year. It led Canadian cities with the most growth in employment, climbing from the last spot last year to the top one this year. Moncton’s unemployment rate dropped 2 per cent to 5.7 per cent, and its population grew 1.3 per cent in a year.

But employers and government officials are well aware not all the jobs that have been, or will be created can be filled with people already here, either in Moncton or the rest of the province.

“We face, like every province, a mismatch of skills,” says Opportunities New Brunswick (ONB) CEO Stephen Lund. “People without jobs and jobs without people – we’re quite aware of the challenge. I think our companies need both [higher-skilled and lower-skilled workers]. We need people in all types of occupations and skillsets, so it’s a real combination.”

The government organization has been working with local businesses and bringing in investment from companies like Dream Payments to boost growth. Lund said approximately 4,000 jobs have been created since ONB was founded in 2015 and more will come over the next five years. These jobs are the direct result of local companies expanding and the more than 60 investment deals that have been signed in the province, including in Moncton, he added.

ONB  is also working with the province’s schools, colleges and universities to create a pipeline of talent for sectors like cybersecurity, fintech, cannabis, digital media and IT. But it’s everybody’s role to make sure the opportunities are known to youth and job seekers, Lund said.

“By attracting world-class companies to the province, they attract immigrants but they also hire locals. What happens outside of that is then we start to see spin-off companies that might feed into these companies, so the indirect jobs are really important as well,” he said.

“The next step is we have to make sure we have the people to fill those jobs. So we have to make sure that we do a good job with immigration, we attract people back here and that we keep our young people here.”

Dream Payments CEO Brent Ho-Young with former premier Frank McKenna, Opportunities New Brunswick CEO Stephen Lund and Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold at the Toronto company’s Moncton office opening in 2017. Image: Submitted

For Toronto-based fintech firm Dream Payments, it’s incentives like payroll rebates, the growing tech industry and the friendly people that made Moncton attractive. The company plans to hire up to 125 people over four years at its Moncton excellence centre to help with its growth in the U.S. It has hired 22 people as of February.

Chief Marketing Officer Christian Ali said the hires will be sourced locally and from abroad.

“We’ll be looking at local talent, but we’re also sourcing internationally. And the ability for the programs in place to transition newcomers into the community was also very appealing,” he said.

“The other side, too, is the sense of community and a good standard of living that we can actually provide to the families of our employees. Because we do [attract] a number of employees from Vietnam and Russia, and it wasn’t just a matter of attracting one single talent from these places.”

J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) is another New Brunswick employer looking to hire locals and immigrants. It was among employers that joined ONB, other provincial government departments, and the mayors of Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton in Toronto to recruit newcomers. It also uses the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program, launched in March of last year, to help meet its talent needs.

The program aims to better match newcomers to jobs that need to be filled in Atlantic Canada. It requires companies to register and offer jobs to potential immigrants before they move to Canada.

So far, more than 530 New Brunswick employers are designated under the program, according to data from ONB. There are roughly 26,500 businesses in the province, according to Statistics Canada.

JDI plans to fill more than 8,800 jobs in Atlantic Canada in the next three years, including by bringing in 240 newcomers. Out of those jobs, 5,101 are expected to be in New Brunswick. JDI will need to fill positions because of retirements, turnovers and new jobs created by growth.

Communications VP Mary Keith said the company hires hundreds of local and international co-op students from Université de Moncton and other educational institutions in New Brunswick. It also has programs in place to train women to fill non-traditional skilled trades positions. But it still needs to look outside the province for workers.

“We obviously want to grow folks here at home in terms of local citizens and students, but the reality is we do need more people than we are seeing in terms of local applicants. We need to attract people to make the region home as part of that strategy,” she said.

“There would be a variety of skillsets [we’d have to look outside for]. The Toronto [job fair], for example, most of the people that attended the event were in finance or IT – all of these skillsets that we’d be looking to build across our organization,” said immigration director Susan Wilson. “Diversity in your workforce also provides a lot of innovative ideas, broader cultures in the workplace, a multitude of benefits.”

But as Ali at Dream Payments noted, settlement help for newcomers is also “critical” for JDI in order to make sure they stay.

“Getting the job is just the first step. Helping them find a doctor and where their kids are going to go to school is just as important,” Wilson said.

And what of the immigrants that came to Moncton through programs that don’t require them to have a job offer and whose skills might not match the labour market needs? Some have created their own jobs by starting businesses.

Sunan Kim, the general manager of the Korean Association in Greater Moncton, said many of his fellow Koreans came through the provincial nominee program as entrepreneurs. Many own convenience stores, restaurants and bottle-deposits, he said. Kim himself started Cedars Pizza on St. George Street with friends five years ago after facing difficulties finding a full-time job.

“In this way, I can manage my financials. Just this year, I also started working full-time. My wife, she manages the restaurant. In this way, we can stabilize, right? It’s a long process [to settle here],” Kim said.

Stanislav Olkinitskiy, the president of the Russian Multicultural Association of The Greater Moncton Area, also started his own business. He and his family chose Moncton because of the closeness to the ocean, the affordable properties, the friendly people and bilingualism.

He opened GoMusic Studio, where musicians can rent fully-equipped studios to practice or record, in Dieppe in 2013.

“That was my dream in Russia but I couldn’t do it because of the competition. And here I’m alone with this service. I met so many wonderful musicians here of all ages, all backgrounds, all levels of playing,” he said.

David Campbell, the President of Jupia Consultants and the former Chief Economist of the New Brunswick Jobs Board Secretariat, said it’s just as important to attract immigrant entrepreneurs.

“Bring in people that can actually live here because they like it here and also sell their products and services outside New Brunswick,” Campbell said. “If an immigrant wants to be in North America, and they’ve got a product or service that they can sell into Canada or sell into the U.S., that’s who we should attract. They make their own high-end work.”

This the final story of a three-part series on the changing face of the labour market in Moncton.

PART IWhy Not Many People Are Moving From Northern N.B. to Moncton Anymore
PART II: Why Immigrants Come to Moncton and Why Some Don’t Stay