A delegation from Prince George was in Belfast and Dublin last week as part of an initiative to attract skilled tradespeople from Ireland and North Ireland to come to B.C.
Initiatives Prince George (IPG), Stinger Welding Ltd. and Wolftek Industries Inc. took part in the career fairs hosted by the B.C. Construction Association's Foreign Skilled Worker B.C. program.
For Willy Manson, president and owner of Stinger Welding, it was his second time taking part in the program. Manson was in Dublin and Cork, Ireland in October 2012 for the first set of career fairs hosted by the program. Manson couldn't disclose how many workers he was able to recruit last year, or in what positions, but said the was able to successfully recruit at least one candidate from Ireland during the last trip.
"We've had a great turn out of skilled tradesmen. It's been a high quality of candidates," Manson said. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to have better success this year."
Stinger Welding isn't looking for temporary foreign workers to fill a short-term need, but people who want to bring their families and settle in Prince George for the long-term, he said.
"We're looking primarily for welders and fabricators. With the amount of work going on in the North there is a shortage in the trades," he said. "We need the skilled trades now, not in four years. We've got apprentices, but we need the experience."
Wolftek Industries general manager and partner Jamie Hull said it his company's first time recruiting in Ireland.
"We were shocked the last few days with the quality [of applicants] and the turnout. It was unbelievable the amount of education and training people had," Hull said. "For Wolftek we're looking for a lot of machinists, or even some machinists, and fabricators."
Hull said he was also impressed with the skills many of the spouses of applicants had, including teachers, health care workers and other people with skills in demand in Prince George.
The high compatibility of training and trades certification between Ireland and Canada is part of the reason the B.C. Construction Association chose the country as a target for recruitment, according to a statement issued by the association.
Hull said many of the applicants had done a lot of research about Canada and B.C. before attending the career fair. In addition, association staff screened applicants at the door.
Many of those interested in Prince George came from rural areas outside of Ireland's main cities, Hull said.
"Not everybody wants to live in a big city. They're outdoors [people], they fish, they have quads..."
Melissa Barcellos, economic development officer for IPG, said she represented several companies which couldn't send recruiters in person and provided lots of general information about the city to potential applicants.
"I talked to lots of civic engineers, medical people, people with masters [degrees] and PhDs," Barcellos said. "I referred them to [IPG's employment listings] website. Employers in Prince George should expect to be receiving resumes."