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Jason MacLean, the president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, says he supports efforts such as the International Graduates in Demand immigration stream to help address job shortages in fields like health care and education, but says it is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. 

“There is a worker shortage right across the board and it’s getting worse,” MacLean says. 

The program was announced by the former Liberal government of Ian Rankin to help employers hire continuing care assistants in the health care sector and early childhood educators. The program began as a pilot project back in April designed to make it easier to hire international graduates of eligible programs. In an email statement, Lynn Morrison, a communications officer with the Nova Scotia government, says the new Progressive Conservative administration of Tim Houston intends to continue with the project and no changes are planned at this time. 

Previous to the launch of this new stream, international graduates had to have one year of work experience before applying to the Nova Scotia Nominee Program. This new stream allows employers to hire and retain international graduates from both private and public institutions in these identified professions in a streamlined, quick, and efficient manner. This will also provide the support needed for the international graduate to apply for permanent residency. 

MacLean says more efforts have to be put into not only attracting immigrants to fill much needed positions but to ensure they remain in the province. He says that can be especially challenging in rural areas.  

“Regardless of whether we are talking about immigrants or people born in Nova Scotia, we have to work to ensure they earn a livable wage. Pay is an issue for everybody.” 

The program applies to a pair of specific streams under the National Occupational Classification (NOC): NOC 3413, which includes nurse aides, orderlies, and patient service associates; and  NOC 4214, which includes early childhood educators and assistants. 

To be eligible, applicants must have a full-time permanent job offer from a Nova Scotia employer in a job category related to their field of study, be 21 to 55 years old, have a high school diploma, and complete the course of study within three years of making the application. 

MacLean says he hopes the new administration will work with his union and all the other stakeholders in the system to find ways to attract and retain health care workers. He says programs like the International Graduates in demand stream can be a part of the solution, but he cautions, “There is the no one magic bullet. There has to be a long-term vision and right now they are just concentrating and trying to fill jobs.” 

Andy Walker

Andy Walker has been a journalist in PEI for over 30 years. After a career working for both PEI's daily newspapers, covering everything from the provincial legislature to hockey games, he has been a full-time freelance writer since 1997. Andy has been editor of the Island Farmer, a biweekly publication which covers the agriculture scene, since 2000. He and his wife, Angela, have four adult children and they reside in Cornwall.

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