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India an answer to Sask. labour shortage: Hopkins

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Saskatchewan should throw its doors wide open to immigrants from India to help solve labour shortage problems, the head of the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday.
John Hopkins, the chamber's CEO, said the pending retirement of many workers in the baby boom generation is "the freight train coming down the track," that will add to the labour shortages already being experienced in the province as a result of an economic boom.
Speaking to the chamber's annual general meeting, at the Best Western Seven Oaks Inn, Hopkins said encouraging more immigrants from India could be a big part of the solution to Saskatchewan's labour shortage.
"What we really need is a pro-active Indian strategy," Hopkins said. "India has 1.2 billion people, many who are highly skilled and salivating about coming to a country like Canada."
Potential immigrants from India are "educated in English, which is a huge advantage for us," Hopkins said.
Hopkins, who was part of a Saskatchewan trade mission that visited India recently, said the trip was a success: "We have established great contacts."
In addition to being a potential source for immigrants, India is also an important market for many Saskatchewan products, Hopkins said.
Federal government help -in facilitating immigration from India and in recognizing the need for more immigrants to Saskatchewan -is needed, Hopkins said.
Speaking to reporters following his speech, Hopkins conceded that there is sometimes a problem with immigrants' professional or technical training being accepted in Canada.
Steps, including educational upgrades, need to be taken to address that problem, Hopkins said, adding it might be possible to provide educational upgrades in India, which would give immigrants the chance to have their credentials immediately recognized when they arrive in Canada.
A variety of other measures should be undertaken to deal with labour shortages, including getting more First Nations people engaged in the workforce, and encouraging young people to stay in Saskatchewan, Hopkins said.
Recruiting new workers from other parts of Canada is also part of the solution, Hopkins said, though other parts of the country will also be dealing with labour shortages as the baby boomers retire, so the competition will be stiff.
Convincing some baby boomers to delay retirement or continue working part-time could be part of the solution, Hopkins said.

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