College Boreal is partnering with the Northern Ontario Francophone Immigration Support Network to try and save the Timmins economy.

According to Christian Howald, Project Coordinator for Northern Ontario Francophone Immigration Support Network, the amount of jobs that will need to be filled in the next two decades will rise to over 150,000. The population of Timmins hit its peak in 1996 and since then has dropped by 50,000 residents. On top of that, in the next two decades, about 47% of the current population is due to retire, leaving a huge need for young workers in the town. 7,000 workers to be exact, every year for the next 22 years, if the town wants to avoid an economic collapse.

So, to try and premptively meet the needs of the labour force in Timmins, College Boreal is hosting sessions this week to discuss strategies on how to recruit and retain a new generation of bilingual immigrants to Northern Ontario. Employers in areas like mining, manufactoring and early childhood education are helping with the recruitment, as those fields will have a particular need for employees in the coming years.

Peter Harkins, Health and Safety Manager for the Reliable Group, says it’s hard to find young people who work in the trades.

“This is very important for our company, because as we continue to try and grow in Northern Ontario, we find sometimes it’s hard to find the skilled resources, to be able to fill the holes in our organization, both from a managerial level and from a worker level [.] We find there’s a depletion of young trades people coming in. So we have to look at all opportunities for our business to continue to develop and grow in Ontario.”

Diversity is something that the organizers are looking for in recruitment and that includes hiring more women. Another major focus is not only to bring workers into Timmins, but to make sure they want to stay.

“Part of Council’s role is always to consider retaining our people in the community and trying to grow the community. So there’s been a lot of focus this term in improving the quality of life,” says Timmins Mayor, Steve Black. “When you look at things we’re working on, like the multi-recreational centre or the festivals that are put on throughout the community, those are all tying into the quality of life.”

Today College Boreal is hosting representatives from the Canadian Embassy in Paris who work for Immigration Refugees and Citizenship in Canada (IRCC).

“[They] are presenting all the different tools to help Canadian employees who are recruiting internationally,” says Howald. “So we have the College, who can help with the training. We also have the partnership here with [the] Timmins Multi-Cultural Centre and we have other service providers in the community[.] What we’re here to show is that there’s no risk and there should be no fear to hire qualified speaking immigrants because it will help diversify the economy and will also help bring new jobs and make links across the world which will also help develop more industry potential.”

“Francophone immigration is key to the vitality of Northern communities,” Howald continued. “The recruitment and retention of French-speaking newcomers can only be done with the support of local employers. We’re here to show […] if you are ready to hire French speaking immigrants, the community is here to help you.”