Colleges and universities in Nova Scotia are teaming up to launch a pilot program to help international graduates get the information and coaching they need to immigrate to the Canadian province. 

“International students are well recognized as a significant pool of potential newcomers to our province,” says Dr. Peter Ricketts, president and vice-chancellor of Acadia University.

“This program will help Nova Scotia international graduates navigate the Canadian immigration system and identify their best options and pathways to stay in Nova Scotia. 

“We hope this program will further differentiate Nova Scotia as a welcoming and supportive community for international students.”

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As the chair of board of directors of EduNova, the cooperative behind the new Post-Graduation Immigration Support Pilot (PGISP) program, Ricketts was a key player in helping international graduates in the province access sessions with a qualified, regulated Canadian immigration consultants at no cost to the graduates.

Those consultants help the graduates navigate the Canadian immigration system by answering questions, identifying suitable pathways for permanent residency, and building confidence in those filing independent applications.

The PGISP is a Canadian first. The provincial government in Nova Scotia funds the program as part of its bid to retain international graduates and provides detailed information on immigration pathway programs through a new app, the iCent, and personalized immigration coaching post-graduation.

“This funding is key for making immigration support more accessible for all international students in Nova Scotia after graduation,” says Shawna Garrett, president and CEO of EduNova. 

“Our goal is to help more interested international graduates attain permanent residency and make Nova Scotia their home long-term.”

Nova Scotia Trying To Boost Immigration To Resolve Serious Labour Shortages

The iCent app provides students with detailed pre-arrival information and has offered support to international students about COVID-19 during the global pandemic.

Nova Scotia’s latest effort to woo international students comes as it is trying to boost immigration and in particular recruit more healthcare workers to resolve its ongoing labour shortages. 

Earlier this year, Nova Scotia Health Minister Michelle Thompson said only immigration can resolve the shortage, as the province announced more than $1 million in funding for the Newcomer Health Clinic in Halifax.

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Her plan is to streamline the licensing process for foreign-trained healthcare workers immigrating to Canada and speed up credential recognition and licensing for those healthcare workers.

Across Canada, an acute labour shortage in the healthcare system is being exacerbated by the high number of workers off sick due to the latest wave of COVID-19, notes Statistics Canada earlier this year in its Labour Force Survey, July 2022.

“As Canada faced a seventh wave of COVID-19 in June and July, some hospitals across the country reported that the combination of COVID-19 infections among staff and labour shortages had forced them to reduce some services, including temporarily closing some emergency rooms,” noted the statistical and demographic services agency.

“These reductions and closures occurred against the backdrop of unprecedented levels of unmet labour demand in the healthcare sector, particularly among nurses … The Job Vacancy and Wage Survey reported 23,620 vacant nursing positions in the first quarter of 2022.

Nurses are in growing demand in Canada.

“Nursing vacancies in early 2022 were more than triple, rising 219.8 per cent, the level of five years earlier, illustrating the extent to which longer-term trends may be contributing to the current challenges facing hospitals and other health care employers,” notes Statistics Canada.

According to the agency, 11.2 per cent of nurses holding down jobs in July were off sick for at least part of a week.

Health Minister Hoping To Create Shared Healthcare Worker Licensing Deal With Other Provinces

“One of the ways hospitals and clinics can respond to absences and unmet labour demand is by scheduling more employees to work extra hours. In July 2022, the proportion of nurses working paid overtime was at its highest level for the month of July since comparable data became available in 1997,” noted Statistics Canada.

In Nova Scotia, the health minister is reportedly hoping to quickly create a shared licensing system of some kind with other Canadian provinces, including its neighbouring Atlantic Canadian provinces.

“I don’t anticipate this is going to be work that is going to take us five or six years,” she reportedly said. “We are committed to this, to understand how to move it forward.”

At the funding announcement, the province announced it will invest an additional $684,000 annually to triple the Newcomer Health Clinic’s budget. 

The clinic provides preventive and primary healthcare to government-assisted refugees, privately sponsored refugees and refugee claimants, and has 2,715 patients.

“We have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our province. This includes people who have fled their country in search of safety in Nova Scotia,” said Thompson in a statement.

“Some of these patients have complex medical needs or are experiencing trauma. They may face language barriers or have not received proper medical care for years. We’re pleased to continue supporting the amazing work of this clinic.”

At the clinic, refugees can get vaccinations, chronic disease management, and routine primary care. The clinic works to transition patients to a family practice in the community within two years.

“Nova Scotia has become home to countless newcomers, and our province has proven itself to be a safe harbour for families who have faced such incredible adversity. This investment puts the Newcomer Health Clinic on sustainable footing to be able to provide primary healthcare for newly arrived refugees to Nova Scotia for the foreseeable future,” said the clinic’s medical lead, Dr. Tim Holland.

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