RNIP says local involvement may increase chance of retaining workers

By Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program has been extended to 2024 to surrounding communities outside Thunder Bay.

The program will stop onboarding new employers by this November, unless the program is once again extended, said Stacey Platt, workforce development officer from the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC), who had been touring regional communities including Fort Frances to introduce the program.

At the information session held at Super 8 by Wyndham Fort Frances on January 11, twelve employers from various sectors such as hospitality, education, business, and agriculture were in attendance.

“The response was very, very good,” Platt said.

“A lot of really positive momentum. And the employers had really great questions, very specific. I found that they were already well versed, they had done some reading and some research on the internet. So it was really great. It was a great use of time, and we felt very welcomed.”

Platt said that the next step is for employers to submit their application to become an RNIP approved employer, adding that it’s a free application that takes around 15 minutes to complete if the employer has most of the job position information on hand.

Some of the benefits to being an approved employer with the RNIP program includes the opportunity to advertise the job posting on the RNIP website, which receives a good amount of traction, Platt said, giving employers the ethos associated with the program.

“Newcomers or potential newcomers know RNIP. They’re looking for those magic letters. And they visit our website routinely,” Platt said. “There’s only 11 communities throughout Canada that have been offered this opportunity to have this pilot, so you can imagine the people that are wanting to access the pilot are searching those 11 websites daily, to see what the job opportunities are.”

“I think COVID really did have a hand in influencing how people are accessing employment and why people are accessing employment. Certainly one concern is that [employers] just want people that are going to show up. And they’re happy to do some training and all that kind of stuff. So it’s really about hiring for fit. And making that investment.”

Platt said that affordable and suitable housing can be difficult to find in smaller rural and northern areas, one source of concern that employers should consider if they want to retain new workers.

“But again, there’s lots of creative ways to get around that problem,” she said.

Platt suggests engaging with local construction companies that have housing projects and to consider investment opportunities through real estate conglomerates.

“Just trying to have those conversations ahead of time to be prepared and to know what the market looks like,” she said.

Oftentimes, the employee will immigrate to Canada with a spouse and children. Platt said that they have seen children of the newcomers get jobs at summer camp and other part time opportunities.

Platt said that the community should come together and consider what types of support the newcomers may need to get settled in the country.

“So it’s really just about having the community come together and to think about ‘what would you want if you were going to be living in a place that you’ve never lived before?’ And ‘what types of things would be helpful to get started?’ Just trying to think really creatively about those wraparound services and wraparound supports.”

“This pilot is focused on looking down the road and seeing if the efforts that were made at the local level, when the community is involved in choosing who and what and how those people get in, that it’s a greater opportunity or a greater chance of retaining those folks and their family members.”

One employer in attendance at the information session in Fort Frances was looking to hire staff for their farm. While the RNIP program has traditionally been geared toward those in “higher skilled” fields, Platt said that the program has multiple “tiers” to meet the needs of the community.

“It’s a very unique program, and we see all types of skills and all types of sectors getting involved.”