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City of Saint John reveals 10-year plan to recruit and retain immigrants

The event featured a panel discussion with researchers and consultants who helped develop the Succeed and Stay report. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

The event featured a panel discussion with researchers and consultants who helped develop the Succeed and Stay report.

Photo:  (Lane Harrison/CBC)

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The plan aims to improve work opportunities and raise awareness about the city, among other goals

The city of Saint John wants to welcome 12,000 newcomers to the Saint John region in the next decade, according to David Dobbelsteyn, the city's acting director of growth and community planning.

Dobbelsteyn shared the goal during a presentation of the city's new 10-year immigration strategy at the Saint John Trade & Convention Centre on Tuesday. 

This is a way for the city and our broader region to essentially both inform our provincial and federal counterparts that we're willing and ready to accept more newcomers, Dobbelsteyn said in an interview. 

But also, to inform our newcomer community: you're welcome here. We want you to stay and we want you to succeed.

The event featured a panel discussion with researchers and consultants who helped develop the Succeed and Stay report, which was prepared by the city and the Saint John Local Immigration Partnership (LIP), a community initiative. 

The report examines the settlement and retention experiences of newcomers in Saint John and helped inform the new 10-year strategy. 

The importance of employment in retention

Employment is one of the main reasons newcomers stay in Saint John, said Mikael Hellstrom, a co-investigator for the Succeed and Stay report. 

But a lack of opportunities is also why they leave, he said. Improving the employment opportunities for newcomers is one of four pillars in the ten year strategy.

The partnership conducted a survey with newcomers, and received 700 unique responses. 

Duyen Nguyen, the principal investigator for the Succeed and Stay report, said one problem identified in the survey was suitable employment. Forty per cent of respondents couldn't get a job that matched their skills and pay expectations. 

As well, 54 per cent of respondents felt there was a lack of job opportunities in Saint John. 

One challenge Hellstrom identified while interviewing newcomers in 2020 was that it's difficult for them to be hired without a network. 

Employers in Saint John in 2020 were apparently reluctant to hire someone they didn't know, he said. 

It wasn't just resumé, it wasn't enough. 'Do I know this person? Does my family know this person? Do my friends from high school know this person? No, OK, I'm not gonna go with this person', Hellstrom said. 

The goal is to make Saint John the most welcoming community in Canada, John Collin, Saint John's city manager, said at the event. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

The goal is to make Saint John the most welcoming community in Canada, John Collin, Saint John's city manager, said at the event.

Photo: (Lane Harrison/CBC)

Dismantling that system will take time, he said. 

Hellstrom is currently developing online training for a program to provide employers with best practices for hiring newcomers. This will include things like how to read resumes more fairly and how to identify biases someone may not know they have. 

[And] how you can then manage that bias so it doesn't get in the way of hiring that candidate that actually would bring a ton of useful experience and skills to your work, he said. 

Telling a better story of Saint John

To recruit newcomers to Saint John, the city will focus on doing a better job of telling Saint John's story, Dobbelsteyn said. 

Saint John is not Toronto. We don't have international name recognition, he said.

Dismantling that system will take time, he said. 

Hellstrom is currently developing online training for a program to provide employers with best practices for hiring newcomers. This will include things like how to read resumes more fairly and how to identify biases someone may not know they have. 

[And] how you can then manage that bias so it doesn't get in the way of hiring that candidate that actually would bring a ton of useful experience and skills to your work, he said. 

Telling a better story of Saint John

To recruit newcomers to Saint John, the city will focus on doing a better job of telling Saint John's story, Dobbelsteyn said. 

Saint John is not Toronto. We don't have international name recognition, he said.

Dobbelsteyn said many newcomers consulted for the report came from much larger cities and said they appreciate the natural beauty of Saint John. 

Dobbelsteyn said the city will work with the province to ensure an accurate description of what Saint John has to offer is shared at international recruitment events. 

It also means working with our employers, so when they're attracting newcomers from other provinces and overseas, they're telling the story about the quality of life that newcomers can have.

Lane Harrison (new window) · CBC News 

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