HALIFAX — Nova Scotia says it has arranged to make use of a fast-track federal immigration program to help it recruit qualified childcare workers.
Lena Diab, the minister responsible for the province's Office of Immigration, said Thursday its new program allows applicants to apply directly to Nova Scotia through the federal express entry program.
She says the program is innovative because as of next Tuesday her officials can scan the pool of potential immigrants in the federal program, and "pick and choose" those it wants to nominate based on their qualifications.
The Office of Immigration says it anticipates sending as many as 180 letters of interest to prospective applicants for its nominee program next week.
"Exact numbers will depend on who is available in the pool on the day of the draw. From there, letter recipients who are interested in working and living in Nova Scotia would respond to the letter of interest and be processed through the stream," said department spokeswoman Lynette MacLeod.
The province currently is permitted by Ottawa to nominate about 1,350 people a year through the provincial nominee program — but has only used about half of its spaces so far this year.
Diab said during a news conference at a daycare that the expectation is that workers recruited under the program will help improve access to daycare services around the province.
The provincial Education Department says over the next three years it's anticipated that Nova Scotia will need more than 700 new early childhood educators to meet the demand in pre-primary and the regulated child care sector.
There are currently about 1,700 trained early childhood educators working in the sector, with about 40 vacancies in the regulated sector as of this week, the department said in an email.
Across Canada, some graduates of early childhood education programs in private colleges have faced difficulties in receiving work permits over the past year, contributing to worries about labour shortages.
Deb Malbeuf, director of the University Childrens' Centre in Halifax, said in an interview that she's aware of students who've graduated from the private colleges who faced difficulties receiving the permits.
The administrator said some of the graduates are going through a lengthy, alternative immigration process in order to continue working.
Malbeuf said she doesn't see the new provincial program necessarily helping the group in limbo, but added she hopes it will help open up another source of immigrant daycare workers.
"There is a critical need for the workers," she said. "Every day on a job bank site I look at, there are postings of two to three early childhood workers that are needed."
Anna-Kay Clarke, a 31-year-old early childhood educator from Jamaica, said she had difficulties obtaining her post-graduate work permit.
Clarke explained that she had to apply under a separate stream requiring the daycare to prepare a labour market assessment for the federal Immigration Department.
She submitted a permanent resident application in July, however that process could take up to 19 months — leaving her with a long wait without the benefits that permanent residents receive.
Yearyun Son, 24, a daycare worker from South Korea who studied in Halifax, said she may apply under the federal express program but she is still investigating.
"I hope I'm going to stay in Canada ... I'm learning a lot from being here," she said.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press