Tuesday, March 3, 2009

To Iceland and beyond

Curtis' favourite Minister is unfairly getting criticized for going to Iceland to recruit skilled workers through the Provincial Nominee Program. Now there are huge holes in the arguments put forward that the province should train Aboriginal people or recruit out of work Ontario auto-workers instead of looking overseas.

Manitoba needs highly skilled workers in certain specific professions. We are talking doctors, engineers and geothermal installers. These workers are key to helping Manitoba businesses grow and keeping the economy out of a recession. It is a complete oversimplification to suggest that we should use Aboriginal labour or Ontario workers to fill these jobs.

Of course training Aboriginal people is important and the province has put a lot of effort and funding to train this largely untapped resource. However, Manitoba businesses need these high skilled workers now. It’s not like you can take a person and train them overnight to work as an engineer. It just doesn’t work that way.

It also doesn’t make any sense bringing auto-workers to Manitoba. Firstly, has no one noticed we don’t have an auto industry? Secondly, it’s not like you can say “hey buddy, you used to put cars together, how about installing these geothermal heat pump thingys”. They are both skilled jobs but with completely different technical requirements that require special skills. It's like asking a dentist to do a lung transplant.

Iceland has a huge geothermal industry and many highly trained workers possibly willing to relocate here. That’s why the province is recruiting there. Businesses have looked locally and couldn’t find people to fill the jobs (it’s a requirement under the Provincial Nominee Program that businesses prove that they have made an effort to fill the jobs with local people).

Manitoba needs immigrants for population and economic growth. Let’s not get caught up in the anti-immigration rhetoric now.

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