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Immigration pilot program brings diversity, experienced employees for local businesses

April 30, 2021

Everard Kasimanwuna says he found his forever home in Timmins and he’s here to stay.

Kasimanwuna is one of the foreign workers in Timmins who was hired through the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program.

The federal immigration project aims to attract and retain skilled immigrants and fill labour shortages in 11 communities across the country, including Timmins.

InTimmins, the project is led by the Timmins Economic Development Corporation (TEDC).

Wednesday, April 28, was Kasimanwuna’s first day of work at the Hard Rock Animal Hospital.

Kasimanwuna has a decade of veterinary experience and is now working toward being licensed in Canada. For the past three years, he’s been in contact with Debbie St. Louis, the Hard Rock’s practice manager, with whom he got connected via LinkedIn.

“Everard has shown a lot of interest in serving our community and their fur babies, so I’m happy about that,” St. Louis said.

Before coming to Timmins with his family that includes his wife and three children, Kasimanwuna worked in Dubai and Nigeria.

“I’ve always loved Timmins from afar, from the distance. I always saw Timmins like my forever home,” he said.

The launch of the RNIP program was delayed because of the pandemic and it kicked off in Timmins last May, said Madison Mizzau, a TEDC community development consultant.

There are currently more than 60 local employers participating in the program.

In 2020, the organization issued 41 recommendations. Over the first three months in 2021, the TEDC made 24 recommendations. The maximum number of recommendations TEDC can make in 2021 is 150.

Last year, there were more than 60 applications and so far this year, TEDC has received over 30 applications.

The majority of applications are from people who are already in Timmins either on a work permit with employers or international students who graduated from local educational institutions, Mizzau said.

There are certain federal requirements candidates must meet to be considered. In January, TEDC updated its community criteria to be “more robust” and to get an idea of who’d be a good fit to stay long term in Timmins, Mizzau said.

“If they meet those requirements and they meet the community criteria, there’s a process where we’re assessing their intention to stay in Timmins and their intention to get connected with the community,” she said.

Some of the tough-to-fill positions, according to Mizzau, are personal support workers, early childhood educators, painters and positions in trades and administration.

“With RNIP, we’re looking to help employers fill those gaps that they’re seeing,” she said.

St. Louis said she’s been looking for veterinarians for more than six years. In the past, she hired a foreign worker through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process which was “very, very long” and daunting, according to her.

Going through RNIP was an overall good experience and she encourages other employers to participate as well.

“It brings some diversity and it promotes new ideas and experiences. Having these different perspectives brings so many new ideas to the table,” she said.

Osaka Sushi’s manager Ammy Lian used the program to hire an experienced chef from South America.

The employee hasn’t arrived yet because of the pandemic restrictions. Several interviews over the phone, video and in-person were held before the employee was hired. According to Lian, the owner of Osaka Sushi went to South America to interview the employee.

Lian said it’s been hard finding qualified people to cook Asian cuisine who’d be willing to stay in Timmins long term. Joining the program and going through the process itself has been easy, she said, adding that Mizzau has also been guiding them through.

“We run an Asian, sushi cuisine restaurant. It’s very difficult to find someone from here who can do this type of job,” she said. “We have to hire someone who has experience already.”

The restaurant has been running for nine and a half years and it was struggling to find someone experienced, she said.

Over the past years, Lian said they’ve had employees from southern Ontario who would work for a few months and then leave the community. Hiring an experienced worker allows to provide authentic Japanese food to customers, Lian said.

“In Timmins, it was not easy to find any kind of workers before international students came here. Lots of international (students) settle down in Timmins and they’re willing to work and they’re hard workers,” she said adding the business is still looking for more people to hire. “If I have another opportunity, I really want to have someone who is willing to stay in Timmins and who will work with me for a while.”