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July 14, 2024 July 14, 2024

Taber’s immigration program works well, continues to grow

Posted on July 11, 2024 by Taber Times

By Cal Braid
Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Alberta Advantage Immigration Program (AAIP) nominates people for status as working residents in Alberta, and the Town of Taber is one of many southern municipalities that have become active participants in it. The Province is intent on bringing more workers in to fill gaps in the perpetual labour shortages, particularly in the trades and healthcare professions.

In 2023, the program activated a dedicated pathway to attract medical professionals to Alberta by allocating 30 per cent of its express entry stream to drawing health-care professionals into Alberta with a job offer from a health-care sector employer.

In July 2022, Taber became a designated community in the Rural Renewal Stream of the program and officially began processing applicants in September of that year. Since then, the Town has endorsed 208 candidates for full-time job
positions and has drawn in 439 new residents with their families. Currently, 15 different nationalities are represented and 73 businesses employ active candidates.

In early 2024, Amy Allred, Taber’s economic development manager, reported that the Town office had two full-time
staff members who facilitated the program. Regional partners at the M.D., Lethbridge County, Coaldale, Picture Butte,
Raymond, Milk River, Vauxhall and Cardston were also onboard.

“Our staff take inquiries and answer questions from candidates and employers for the whole region,” Allred said.

“Each application is personally reviewed, and we interview every candidate, either in person or Zoom, before taking their applications to the approval committee. We also make sure to connect with the employers, so they too can be successful in onboarding newcomers. Each candidate who meets all the requirements is taken to a local committee, which considers the application. All the businesses are required to advertise locally first, and only if they cannot find
a suitable candidate then they are able to access the program.”

She said the program receives local applications daily, and believes the entry and approval process is reasonably fair,
accessible, and straightforward for foreign workers. “It is a simple program in many ways, but one that ensures that the economic balance in the community is bettered.

Candidates have to have experience in the specific job role, have offers of full-time, year-round job offers, and come with settlement funds to get set up in town.” Meaning they must arrive equipped with enough for the first month’s rent, groceries, and incidentals for the time in between arriving and their first cheque.

Most recently, on June 18, the Town welcomed guest speaker Jennifer Mah of The Medicine Hat Local Immigration Partnership (MHLIP) in for a one day workshop at the community centre that focused on ways to best integrate immigrants upon their arrival in small-town Canada.

The newcomers and temporary foreign workers need comprehensive services to support their settlement in a new
country. The MHLIP helps foreign workers develop the life skills they need to achive self-reliance during the time the clients live and work in Alberta, whether it is temporarily, or as they transition to permanent residency.

Mah’s presentation focused on building a collaborative community in which newcomers can feel a sense of belonging.

Taylor Mountstephen, Taber’s economic development assistant, attended the presentation and found it heplful. “The
biggest takeaway from my perspective was the diversity of immigrant settlement services we
actually have available to us in our community,” she said. “It was a great reminder that although each service group has a different focus, we have more in common than we think we do. It was an important reminder to focus more on our common goal of newcomer retention, rather than our own individual areas of settlement expertise. The sessions also served as an important reflection of the newcomer experience in a rural community, and how discrimination and groupthink tendencies are still present, even if we don’t actually see them happening in our average day-to-day life.”

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