Member of Parliament Bernard Généreux played host to the heads of small, medium and large enterprises from Montmagny–L’Islet–Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup in a meeting to discuss the difficulty of recruiting workers in the riding. Nearly 100 entrepreneurs and elected officials attended.
The participants, who included Brigitte Labrecque, Development Advisor at the RCM of Montmagny, Marie-Josée Huot, Executive Director of the Rivière-du-Loup local development centre (CLD) and Anne-Marie Lapointe, Executive Director of the Kamouraska employment assistance services (SAE), had an opportunity to share their concerns, observations and proposed solutions. The issues discussed included:
- The need to attract and retain workers who would otherwise remain in or return to large centres in Quebec or elsewhere;
- The impact of wage competition from large businesses on SMEs that are trying to recruit and retain the same employees;
- The importance of not only overcoming challenges, but also focusing more on the region’s strengths, including the variety of employment available, the benefits offered by businesses and the work environment, affordability compared with large cities, and the quality of family life.
- The importance of helping the spouses of workers in the MLKRDL to find jobs in the area in order to increase the retention rate, which is often negatively impacted when the spouse has to look for work elsewhere, or gets tired of the long commute;
- The need to reduce the red tape associated with the immigration process under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, particularly when renewing a contract for a worker who has already been trained; and
- Consideration of the imbalance between the academic training imposed on young people that does not necessarily address the region’s labour force needs, and the vocational/technical training that would be more useful.
Mr. Généreux pointed out that the region’s economic vitality is threatened by the difficulty of staffing the positions that are currently available. “In concrete terms, on Thursday, September 15, the Emploi-Québec website had 105 job postings for Montmagny, 34 for L’Islet, 101 for La Pocatière and 266 for Rivière-du-Loup. If we include the hidden market, those numbers double. This means that there are almost 1,000 jobs available in the riding,” exclaimed Mr. Généreux. “The proof is in the numbers: we have hit a wall. I completely understand the frustration of employers who are facing the threat of jobs being relocated to large centres.”
While there is still work to be done in terms of integrating foreign labour, the participants did hear some encouraging reports. One proactive employer, Aliments Asta, has implemented a remarkable strategy in recent years that involves cooperating with the community of St‑Alexandre-de-Kamouraska to take in workers from the Philippines. Allaoua Bouguermouh is a foreman in Rivière-du-Loup who arrived in Quebec in 2001. He had no trouble adapting to different working conditions and environments, including James Bay. He believes that the 12-month period following the arrival of an immigrant to Canada is critical to successful integration. If these workers don’t know about the regions outside of large centres, they are unlikely to settle there. He acknowledges that immigrants who are as open as he is to Western ways of live have a better chance of success.
Since last January, the MP has been consulting with the municipalities and economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, community futures development corporations/local development centres, school boards, health centres and the heads of local employment centres (CAE), and is now planning an innovative approach to attracting workers from outside the region.
The idea is to launch a media blitz that uses traditional platforms to bring the region to the attention of the national media. An advertising campaign could initially target Montréal’s multi-ethnic media, attracting a delegation of journalists who would showcase the opportunities available to those bold enough to settle in MLKRDL.
A creative strategy that includes social media would reach a younger and broader public in the context of an eventual Business tour. Mr. Généreux cited the summer 2016 tourism tour as a success story, pointing out that each of the videos promoting tourism in the region was seen by more than 5,000 people on the Internet.
Another solution might be to match new arrivals with regional resource persons to help them settle into their new life, alleviating the burden on the businesses that currently assume that responsibility.
In conclusion, the MP stated: “The ad hoc committee composed of representatives of regional businesses and organizations should join forces to take the suggestions made during the meeting and develop an organized strategy. I am always open to innovative ideas that are brought to my attention.”