Skilled Irish workers targeted by Canadian province as 120,000 needed to fuel economy

It’s advertising itself as the fifth-most liveable city in the world, and promises well-paid, secure jobs for hundreds of Irish workers with the right skillset.

Last March’s Working Abroad Expos put Canada firmly on the map as an emigration destination for Irish workers. At those events it was the provinces of British Colombia and Saskatchewan aggressively seeking workers.

This time out it’s the province of Alberta, between the Rockies and the Prairies, with the city of Calgary leading the charge, seeking engineers, geologists, architects, truck drivers, carpenters, nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, business and hospitality managers.

A 40-strong delegation from the city attended the Working Abroad Expo in Dublin’s RDS last weekend. Their campaign, entitled ‘Calgary, Be Part of the Energy’ comprised a dozen companies and organisations located in and around Calgary and Alberta. The delegation included migration officials, recruiters and high profile energy companies such as Suncor, ATCO Group, Alberta Health Services and Aecon Group. It is understood Suncor has 300 openings, Alberta Health Services has 1,000 at any time, Tarpon Energy Services is expected to hire 200 and ATCO is looking for 1,000 in the next year.

Bruce Graham, president and chief executive of Calgary Economic Development, stressed, however, that it’s not all about the oil and gas industry.

“Don’t rule yourself out if your talents lie elsewhere,” he said. “We have lots of jobs in services, healthcare and even arts and TV. Calgary is creative — the arts are highly supported we are looking to meet those who want to work in the film, TV and creative industries.”

A conservative estimate is that Alberta will require 120,000 workers to fuel the economy in the next decade, with a significant number of them needed in Calgary, a city of 1.1m people.

Close to the breathtaking beauty of the Rockies region, the city is, in contrast, industrial and practical, and home to the major international oil and gas companies.

But that branding of fifth-most liveable city isn’t made up, as for three years running, Calgary was ranked the fifth-top city in the world to live in by the Economist Magazine’s Intelligence Unit2.

David Walsh of the Working Abroad Expo visited the city recently. “There is such a buzz about the place. It’s exciting, thriving and full of energy. I was taken aback by the vibrancy of the city,” he said.

Edwina Shanahan of Viasfirst.com said the main body of exhibitors at the Work Expos are now Canadian employers seeking construction trades, skills and labour for the oil service industries.

“It interesting to see that Irish are now being more selective about the job they take,” she said. “They are looking at perks, salary, etc and not just jumping at the first offer.”

Ms Shanahan said employers from Canada are offering to pay for flights, subsidise accommodation and other perks to attract Irish skilled workers — something Australian employers fall behind on.

She added that Canadian employers are delighted with they get an Irish trades-person, because training begins at 16 or 17 here, whereas in Canada they don’t start until 27.

“An employer thinks all his birthdays have come at once when he gets tradesmen only 30 years of age with full trade papers and years of experience,” she said.

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