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Foreign workers need link to Sask. jobs

When one HR manager in Sudbury, Ont., heard that Louise Van Winkle would be in Toronto, the exec grabbed a colleague, jumped on a plane and flew to see her the same day.
The attraction? Trying to find skilled workers - machinists, in this case - for northern Ontario's burgeoning mining industry.
Van Winkle, a senior manager in the immigration section of the Canadian embassy in Paris, told that story to illustrate the need some Canadian employers have for trained and experienced workers - and how the federal government program for which she works can help them.
As a Saskatchewan delegation went to Ireland last week to search for workers, "we're the mirror image of that, in a way," Van Winkle said. "We're telling employers how they can post their jobs and recruit at a distance."
Employers can recruit workers from Tunisia, for example. Tunisia, the small north African country between Libya and Algeria was much in the news one year ago because of the political revolution that started there, toppled a government, then spread to other Arab countries.
Now Tunisia is quiet, but has fallen on hard economic times. Its government is amenable to emigration of trained workers in the belief this will lower unemployment - and that these workers might someday return home if things look up. It's what Van Winkle calls "circular mobility."
Van Winkle and colleague Marie Pouliot from the Canadian embassy in Tunis were here to tell employers and provincial government agencies about a 10-year-old program that facilitates the migration of workers and, not incidentally, helps minority-language communities.
As they, and Muriel Pagnoni of France's Pole Emploi employment agency, explain, it's a win-win situation for all involved. People get jobs, employers get skilled workers and small linguistic communities - like the francophone one in Saskatchewan - get immigrants to join their community, fill schools and perhaps become entrepreneurs and lifelong members.
They say Tunisia, which has already sent some immigrants to Saskatchewan, is particularly interesting because its trades training program is highly sophisticated and many graduates have the equivalent of a master's degree.
Linguistically, Arabic is the most common language there, but French is in second place and English is widely learned and spoken.
There's enough interest in this program that a delegation of employers from New Brunswick and Ontario went to Paris last autumn and another is scheduled to visit this spring.
Van Winkel said if interested, Saskatchewan's employers should contact Darron Taylor, director of employment and immigration at the Assemblee communautaire fransaskoise in Regina, via direction.
Pagnoni said there's also interest in immigration to Canada from metropolitan France, where youth unemployment is high and people are reading glowing reviews of Canada's healthy economy.
To that end, Van Winkle said the Canadian embassy in Paris last year issued 14,000 temporary work permits and 6,000 permanent resident visas, adding, "It would be greater if the jobs were more visible."

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