When Tom and I set out to build a business together back in 2018 we didn’t just know what we wanted to build; we knew where too. 3D Planeta was always going to be right here, in Fredericton, in New Brunswick, because we don’t just live here, we believe in here too. Recent statistics suggest others are beginning to see what we see; that there is opportunity here if you know where to look.
According to a December 2020 report issued by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), 90 percent of newcomers who arrived via the Atlantic Immigration Pilot between 2017 and 2019 have stayed in the region. That’s a higher one-year retention rate than other economic immigration programs. Of the immigrants who did arrive through the pilot program, 45 per cent came to New Brunswick, 34 per cent to Nova Scotia and 10 per cent each to PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador.
What those numbers don’t show is the massive community effort happening in communities across New Brunswick to welcome in new people, new workers, and new families.
The New Brunswick Multicultural Council has been instrumental in leading a province-wide conversation about newcomer attraction and retention and early this month I had the chance to join others in an online conversation about the economy and immigration as part of New Conversations 2.0. Billed as a virtual tour and led by economists David Campbell and Richard Saillant, the Fredericton stop attracted over 150 people to talk about how to accelerate the integration of newcomers into the local economy, as employees and entrepreneurs.
So I told our story; that hiring newcomers, and in particular international students, was always part of our plan.
Both Tom and I love working with students. We love the energy they bring into the office, we love hearing their ideas, and we truly believe in supporting young people, helping them to step up and out into their careers.
However, we also knew from experience that the existing ‘matchmaking’ system employed by post-secondary institutions and by government departments is clunky and at times restrictive.
We’re a start-up; we don’t work well in a rigid environment. Our situation is one of constant motion and we need a fluidity that just wasn’t available to us through traditional programs.
So what do a couple of middle-aged entrepreneurs do when faced with that kind of problem? We sharpened our pencils, designed our own hiring program and went to the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) and the University of New Brunswick (UNB) and pitched them on our in-house student hiring program. And both institutions said yes. Of course they did, because we had a shared purpose: to accelerate the integration of students into the local economy and we are particularly interested in helping international students, many of whom are in their late 20s or early 30s work experience that is helping Tom and I build 3D Planeta.
Fast forward a year and we have just welcomed the second cohort of UNB business students and NBCC students. A few members of the first cohort are now on staff and the others have either returned to their studies or found work elsewhere. In 2020, we were able to provide experiential learning opportunities for 10 students, with 5 of them being international. A great example is Oksana Tesla, who immigrated to Canada in 2017 from Ukraine, equipped with a Master’s Degree in International Economic Relations and a Master’s Degree of Geography. She completed an internship at 3D Planeta while obtaining her Post-Graduate Certificate in IT Business Analysis at NBCC, and is now at 3D Planeta permanent full-time as our Special Projects Lead.
Our experience is mirrored in David Campbell’s research. In a recent newspaper story, Campbell explained that immigrants with young families may be more likely to remain in New Brunswick because once kids are in the school system, making friends and taking part in community activities, people are less likely to pick up and move. Those of us with kids know that. Through our children we set down roots, and it is no different for skilled immigrants.
“New Brunswick is trying to attract these people on purpose,” said Campbell.
I agree David. There are opportunities in New Brunswick for newcomers to work and to raise their kids in a safe and friendly environment. It’s up to all of us in the business community to actively and with purpose welcome them in.
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