Initiatives Prince George is part of a provincial recruitment delegation currently in Ireland
There are 14 people on the recruitment trip set up by the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training with a team of ministry officials plus representatives of the BC Construction Association, IPG and a number of private companies in need of workers, including Canfor, Stinger Welding and Northern Crane.
Job fairs had been set up by Irish organizers in Dublin and Cork.
"An interesting thing for us employers here, especially us guys from Prince George, was some of the tradesmen showed up with their families along with them," said Willy Manson, owner of Stinger Welding. "One said to me 'where are you?' so I pointed out where P.G. was on the map and his wife started asking me all these questions about what the city was like, and what there was to do for families. I'm looking for welders and steel fabricators, but I wasn't expecting to have those conversations about what kind of town we have."
Eagerness was driving those questions. One of the recruitment fairs had a lineup more than 300 metres long when the doors opened. Irish skilled labourers are anxious to move for jobs because of the high unemployment rate there. Despite the fact the fairs were advertised as being about blue-collar jobs, many white-collar professionals also stood in line out of desperation.
"We have had a few folks interested in moving their whole business over, and that option exists, so we were able to get into those conversations right away," IPG economic development officer Melissa Mills said.
Canfor's manager of talent and employee development, Rob Jarvis, said Mills also ended up representing the entire northern region. Canfor has operations in several northern communities and Mills could vouch for those other locations as well as Prince George, he said.
It was also a chance for Mills to meet with human resources agencies in Ireland to keep the Prince George message moving long after she's gone. Those relationships also foster easier return visits.
The federal government, the provincial Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, and many local agencies working with IPG, such as the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society, are in a position to bring skilled workers from Ireland (and other locations) to jobs in Prince George that the local population cannot fill.
"For Canfor this is more of an exploratory trip, to see if Ireland is the right fit," said Jarvis. "Other companies already know the fits are there for their specific needs, but we have to do more research on that, so we have not made any offers, but we are looking at resumes. But some of the Irish tradespeople we met with are walking away with multiple offers of employment right now, from some of the companies on this trip with us.
"What we've found is, the people are coming around these job fairs with quite the tales of woe, but highly skilled people. They want to work, they have the skills but they have little for employment prospects here. I was quite surprised at how few of them are at all intimidated about living in a small town, or a winter climate. They want to work, and they love the idea of Prince George."
For most trades, there is an exam to pass. Jarvis and Manson said the only real difference in their skills background is terminology. Once that is studied, the principles of the trade are very similar, making a prospective Irish candidate very attractive to B.C. industrial companies.
For those intending to bring along husbands, wives, children, business partners, etc. the trip is more than just taking a job, it is changing a lifestyle.
"A lot of the families I spoke to were specifically impressed by the relatively low cost of buying a home and having space in Prince George compared to Vancouver or staying in Ireland," said Mills. "They were dumbfounded when I explained the cost translation, and what you get for your money."
Based on the experiences discussed at the job fairs, if an Irish candidate is offered a Prince George job, it is a matter of about three months to complete the moving arrangements and have them on the job in northern B.C.
The provincial government has or soon will take part in similar missions to job fairs in the U.K., France, Philippines, the United States, and for specifically attracting entrepreneurs there are missions this year aimed at Korea, China, Mexico, India and Dubai.
IPG will be taking part in other recruitment and retention events this fall on behalf of the community. They include the Canada Starts Here - BC Jobs Start Here job fair on Nov. 6 and the Recruitment Mission: Ontario Career Caravan on Nov. 16 and 17.
"It is important to note that access not just to skilled labour but also a skilled and diversified workforce has been identified as one of the most significant barriers to growth that Prince George companies are facing," said IPG CEO Heather Oland. "Training our existing population is an important part of the solution and so is the attraction of new population to our community and our region."