Vernon competing for immigrants as local labour shortage challenges employers

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VERNON - Vernon is trying to be competitive when it comes to attracting new residents to the city.

Annette Sharkey with the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan says with an aging population, Vernon needs to encourage newcomers to the city. One way to do that is by promoting immigration.

“We’re all well aware that a lot of boomers are retiring, and there is a projected skills shortage. We’re already seeing that shortage, with local employers saying it’s hard to find workers,” Sharkey says.

READ MORE: 'It's leading to burnout,' Vernon business owner says of local labour shortage

That trend isn’t unique to Vernon.

“This is right across the province, right across Canada. Everybody is really in competition to have individuals and families move to their communities,” she says.

So, Vernon is rolling up its sleeves and getting to work. Part of that is finding out how the city can become more attractive to immigrants, Sharkey says. The Social Planning Council is conducting a phone survey over the next two weeks to identify potential opportunities for making Vernon more welcoming to newcomers, and supporting their settlement and retention once in the city.

“We are competing on a global stage for skilled talent to support economic growth and business retention and development for all. It is important for Vernon to be proactive in attracting and keeping newcomers in our community,” Sharkey says.

The survey is being coordinated by Pinnacle Communications & Media Inc., on behalf of the Social Planning Council. Sharkey encourages anyone contacted over the next couple of weeks to participate.

This will be the second survey on immigration in Vernon. The first was in 2015, and reflected a strong interest in participating in multi-cultural events, Sharkey says. Those results, in part, led to the creation of RespectFest, which was held in 2017.

Aside from the economic case for promoting immigration, Sharkey says there are also widespread benefits when it comes to diversity.

“When you have people from all over the world living in Vernon, you get to hear different perspectives on problem solving, and how other places have responded to community issues,” Sharkey says. “Also — food. We are able to eat pretty much all over the world in Vernon, and a lot of that is because of immigrant entrepreneurs.”


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