Innovative Approach to Newcomer Retention
We kicked off January with our ‘Top 10 Highlights Fuelling Economic & Population Growth’ with Newcomer Settlement’ placing seventh on our list. It evokes a great sense of pride when I see the growing cultural diversity in our community from places of business to the availability of ethnic cuisine to my childrens’ friends. Growing up in Fredericton, I can say that is was predominantly white, and going out for ethnic food was limited to Canadian Chinese buffet. What an amazing transformation over the last decade!
Fredericton has continued to attract newcomers from around the globe, which enriches our cultural diversity and skilled workforce. However, it is not just about attracting people here - it is about making Fredericton the most welcoming community, so that newcomers can build fulfilling lives and careers here. This is why Ignite Fredericton speared New Brunswick’s first Local Immigration Partnership (LIPF) to support newcomer retention and integration.
Coinciding with the March 2nd LIPF Community-Call-to-Action, I would like to provide some background about our past newcomer efforts, and where we need to be in the future...
In 2011 with a declining population and skill shortages, Fredericton City Council (led by Councillor Eric Megarity and Laurie Guthrie) made a strategic decision to invest in a dedicated Immigration Coordinator position, to be housed at Ignite Fredericton (formerly Enterprise Fredericton).
This was the turning point for Fredericton in terms of having a point person to host immigrants during their exploratory visits, conduct ongoing follow-up during the immigration process, and refer them to settlement agencies when they land. These efforts have only been further enhanced with the co-location of Planet Hatch and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce’s Business Immigrant Mentorship Program (BIMP), the Hive (business incubator program for immigrants) and Succession Connect program (matching newcomers with available businesses for sale). Newcomers now have access to a full suite of business services from ideation, validation, to growth and maturity.
In 2013, Ignite Fredericton led an effort to create a Local Immigration Partnership in Fredericton, which received City Council endorsement in 2014, and Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada funding in April 2015. The LIPF was officially launched in March 2016 as a community-driven solution to address immigrant integration.
Fredericton’s LIP is co-chaired by Councillor Eric Megarity and Janet Moser. The LIPF strategy, which included a gap analysis identifying integration obstacles and an asset mapping of settlement service organizations, identifies seven focus areas: basic needs, welcoming community & awareness, children & youth, education & employment, entrepreneurship & business, francophone services, and multi-level government.
At the March 2nd Community-Call-to-Action, the public was invited to lend their expertise and get involved in the following LIPF Working Groups:
- Basic Needs - To improve and simplify newcomer information/tools upon arrival at key access points.
- Welcoming Community & Awareness - To create a more welcoming community and generate newcomer awareness.
- Education & Employment - To help facilitate a newcomer skills/education profile so that newcomers can be directed towards paths of interest, i.e. workforce matching, starting a business, skilling-up, internship placements, credential recognition, etc.
I would like to commend the provincial and federal governments on customizing an immigration solution for Atlantic Canada! This is something we have been advocating to Members of Parliament for some time, and thank you to our local MP, Matt Decourcey, for leading on behalf of the Fredericton Region.
What does this mean? An increase of 2,000 immigrants to Atlantic Canada, which will help fuel companies experiencing skill shortages. It will mean hopefully a streamlined process for immigration paths available to newcomers.
What can citizens do to help with our immigration efforts?
- Hire newcomers, who offer fresh perspective and new ideas.
- Be welcoming to your new neighbours or co-workers. Imagine what it would be like to move to a new country where you do not know anyone or are fleeing a war-torn country? This will help minimize their culture shock.
- Help our newcomers build their networks and connections in the community.
- Join a LIPF working group, and do your part in helping to make a difference in the settlement of our new citizens.
- Offer internships in your places of businesses so that international students and newcomers can acquire local work experience.
What can government do to continue improving immigration pathways?
- Targetted immigration attraction focussed on skill shortages.
- Create a provision in the Federal summer student program so that local businesses can hire international students, who are already living and studying here. Let’s give them opportunity to stay here post-graduation!
- Ensure expedient processing time during the immigration process.
To learn more about the LIPF - please click here
Laurie Guthrie, EcD, BIS
Economic Development & Marketing Specialist
Ignite Fredericton | Knowledge Park | Planet Hatch