The great Canadian jobs rush
WHEN SINEAD and Howard Morrissey relocated from Tipperary to the remote prairie province of Saskatchewan in Canada, the area was almost unheard of in Ireland. It was 2010, and the new wave of Irish workers leaving home shores was just beginning to gain pace.
Arriving in the region’s capital of Regina, the Morrisseys, who are both in their 30s, didn’t know of any other Irish people in the area. But things have changed drastically. Howard, who works as a carpenter, now hears of new Irish people arriving every week.
“I was picking up a visiting family member at the airport recently and there were two Irish guys on that flight alone,” he says. “We are meeting people all the time who have been here two, four and eight weeks.” The couple and their 11-year-old daughter Cara made the move after attending a Working Abroad Expo in 2009; a similar event in March this year was attended by more than 20,000 people. The Morrisseys were at that one too, but this time on the other side of the fence. At the request of Regina’s Chamber of Commerce, the couple travelled back to Ireland to help promote the region and give advice to people considering taking the leap.
A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program says that around 300 Irish families are currently in the process of moving to the region after receiving offers from employers at these jobs fairs.
A quick look at the New Regina Irish page on Facebook shows the diverse range of people arriving to the area, including singles, couples with young families of up to four children, and, more poignantly, married men arriving alone, hoping that their wives and children can soon join them.
With no Irish club or centre to speak of in Regina, the page is proving to be an invaluable networking resource where people can swap information about everything from housing and schools to socialising and the weather. There is talk of setting up a GAA club and a community hub of some kind in the future, as there is an awareness among the Irish arriving here that this could be home for some time.
SASKATCHEWAN IS the country’s fastest growing province. The region works hard to attract workers into its small and tight-knit communities, where there is an abundance of job opportunities across all sectors.
John Hopkins, chief executive of Regina’s Chamber of Commerce, says what is occurring in Saskatchewan’s labour market is “the perfect storm”. The economy there is growing but there is an ageing workforce at a time when demand for workers is high, and likely to remain so for the next 20 years.
Statistics provided by the independent Frontier Centre for Public Policy think tank show that over the next five years, between 75,000 and 90,000 skilled workers will be needed to plug the labour shortage in the province. Recruitment will mainly be in the areas of technology, construction, mineral exploration, agriculture and petroleum.
Hopkins says that the district is looking abroad to ensure employers’ needs are met – and Irish workers fit the bill. “Ireland makes a lot of sense as a human resource because cultures, law and language are largely the same,” he says. “The cuisine is similar, the education too, so people will fit in easily. The skills and trades credentials appear to be on par with Canada. The major hurdle standing in the way is immigration.”