Nova Scotia is robust in partnerships and opportunities supporting international students to stay in the province. Approximately half of all university students in Nova Scotia come from either another Canadian province/territory or from another country, making international education Nova Scotia’s second largest export and an essential factor in economic growth. 

In 2014, the Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy released the One Nova Scotia (One NS) ‘Now or Never’ Report on Nova Scotia’s economic prospects. Commissioners stressed the potential role of the highly developed post-secondary education system as a bulwark against economic decline in Nova Scotia. Since then, EduNova alongside its members and with support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE) have prioritized international student recruitment and retention. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of international students studying in Nova Scotian universities rose by more than 2500, an increase of more than 50% (Association of Atlantic Universities – Survey of Preliminary Enrolments). These talented students represent a growing and highly-skilled group of potential partners, uniquely qualified to help close labour market gaps and join in building the new Nova Scotia economy. The One NS report Commissioners rightly suggested that Nova Scotians concentrate on welcoming international students to our institutions and easing their transition into society and careers in the province with an eye to increasing the percentages who stay in Nova Scotia from 2-3% in 2014 to 5-10% in 2019. 

EduNova and its members knew they could contribute–welcoming international students and supporting them to thrive in the province became paramount.  EduNova is a co-operative of education and training providers aiming to attract international students and develop the economy. Working with its university and community college members and federal and provincial government partners ACOA and LAE, EduNova aims to make Nova Scotia one of Canada’s most tightly-knit international education communities. EduNova supports international students not only to study, but to stay in the province post-graduation. These efforts have been strong contributors in championing international student retention while advancing social and economic growth in our province.

In 2016 EduNova, in collaboration with Nova Scotia’s post-secondary institutions and with funding from LAE and ACOA launched the Study and Stay™ programs. These programs aimed to address the challenge of international student retention, supporting students to live, work, and stay in Nova Scotia post-graduation. The goals of the Study and Stay™ programs are to provide international students with training and opportunities that will help them to join the labour market, secure meaningful employment, and to retain 80% of program graduates in Nova Scotia post-graduation.

In 2018, the Stay in Nova Scotia program was re-branded as Atlantic Canada Study and Stay™ and expanded to include all four Atlantic Canadian provinces, administered by each province. It serves as a model to be replicated by government and private enterprise in other jurisdictions across Canada and around the world.

Recipe for Retention

Under an umbrella of innovation and collaboration, the Study and Stay™ model demonstrates how universities, the private sector, and government are taking steps in sector-wide initiatives to support and retain international students in the province of Nova Scotia—and the Atlantic region. The Study and Stay™ programs are unique in Canada, if not the World, and demonstrate Nova Scotia’s commitment to attracting and retaining international students and to building a province where newcomers are welcomed, celebrated and supported.

To date, over 500 international students across Atlantic Canada have completed the program, with over 80% retention in the region. Many program graduates have gone on to launch successful careers in the province and are working for esteemed organizations, businesses, and start-ups, as well as creating new businesses. Many participants have received Permanent Residency, often with additional support from their employers and family members that are also eager to stay in the province.

Originally from Brazil, Elder Koch was matched with his mentor, Mark Kotzer. This ended up becoming a life-changing experience. Elder explains how Mark’s “confidence and passion in working with him turned [Elder] into an extraordinary professional in his field…the way he listened to me in our first meeting shows a different approach that I wasn’t expecting. He really demonstrated interest in my history, carefully taking notes to learn about me and about my expectations in the program. He connected me with people in my area of interest and showed me the power of connections and how valuable it was to be part of the Atlantic Canada Study and Stay™ Program, both for me and him.”

One of the objectives Mark set with Elder was in helping him to find suitable employment. With Elder’s background in supply chain management, and Mark’s connections in the labor market, the mentorship match resulted in a job offer for Elder at Stelia Aerospace.

It’s been five years since the ‘One Nova Scotia’ report came out, and the number of international post-secondary students transitioning to permanent residency has steadily increased with 12.6% of foreign students choosing to stay in Nova Scotia post-graduation. This historic provincial high, coupled with a significant increase in the number of international students studying in Nova Scotia are noticeable gains for the province. One can see how collaboration between federal and provincial partners, institutions, and the private sector can create sustainable change for the province—and for international students, as they transition from ‘class-spaces’ to ‘work-places’. In terms of what’s cooking next? EduNova is working with the province and its members on finding opportunities to reach even more students and expand impact in the province. What we do know is that support from federal and provincial governments combined with welcoming communities, world-class education, diverse institutions, international students, and an organization committed to collaboration, delivers excellent economic and social outcomes for Nova Scotia.