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Hundreds of German workers ready to land in Canada: HR expert.

Germany is overloaded with skilled tradespeople eager to come to Canada, says a Sudbury human resources specialist.

An influx of cheap labour from other parts of Europe is putting skilled German tradespeople out of work in their own homeland. According to Levert Personnel Resources' Dan Newell, many are looking for a new life in Canada.

Newell returned from Germany in April, brimming with optimism following an eight-day fact-finding trip to recruit foreign tradespeople whose skills are desperately needed in Northern Ontario.

Newell says he was inundated with hundreds of applications from tradespeople with "impeccable" credentials, anxious to come to Canada.

"I have 300 applications and more coming in every day," says Newell. He says the applicants "desperately want to migrate to Northern Ontario."

The only hang-up now is getting the federal and provincial governments to clue in.

Newell wants to fast track the process of getting immigrant workers to Northern Ontario to deal with the growing skilled trades shortage.

His employer, already working with an Alberta company to attract immigrant workers to Western Canada's Oil Patch, tagged along as part of an Alberta government delegation, attending job fairs in Dresden and Cologne last month.

Both are highly industrialized cities in the former East Germany where the unemployment rate among skilled trades is as high as 20 per cent.

"I had so many applications I had to mail them home because I couldn't carry them in my suitcase."

His presence in Dresden and Cologne attracted wide-spread attention on German national television and in print media.

Since arriving back in Sudbury, Newell counts 325 applications from machinists, millwrights, pipefitters, steamfitters, carpenters, geologists, engineers and information technology professionals. "Every skill we were possibly looking for, we had, and in great numbers."

Building a solid reputation

Canada is recognized among Germans as a good place in which to live and work.

Many have relatives in Canada, are highly educated, and can speak and write English.

The fall of Communism resulted in many tradespeople working for the state being thrown out of work. Much of the infrastructure in these East German cities fell into shambles. Since Reunification, the German government has been working diligently to rebuild hotels, railroads, subways and parts of Dresden still left unrepaired since its carpet bombing during the Second World War.

Relaxed European labour laws have opened up Germany to outside contractors from Poland and Russia and created a groundswell of cheap labour, which has undercut German tradespeople, putting many out of work.

Newell's visit had the blessing of the German Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which is anxious to get tradespeople off the unemployment rolls and working in Canada.

They assigned two officials to accompany Newell throughout his trip, which included stops in Bonn and Frankfurt.

Newell says many of the applicants are under the age of 35, have solid credentials and likely would have Canadian jobs waiting for them.

"There's no question in my mind I could place them all in Sudbury, let alone the rest of Northern Ontario. They'd leave tomorrow afternoon if they could," says Newell. "Now all we can do is get the Ministry of Labour here to help us."

While in Europe, Newell says Alberta companies were hiring tradespeople "on the spot" for the Oil Sands project, taking only three weeks to arrange the paperwork for a temporary work visa.

"I learned a lot," says Newell. "Knowing what I know now, I could come back next month with 500 skilled workers."

Levert is making arrangements through the German government to test prospective workers to ensure their skills are up to Canadian standards.

Having done most of the on-the-ground legwork, Newell is confident he can approach the federal and provincial governments with a solid case for faster processing of skilled immigrant workers to Ontario.

"All are coming in to fill a job that's required," says Newell. "The (federal) point system should not be a problem for any of them."

In April, federal Immigration Minister Joe Volpe announced his department intends to ease rules to speed up applications and help immigrants get settled in Canada.

But while Ottawa and Queen's Park are still bickering over the cost of settling new immigrants, the Maritime provinces have launched an aggressive push to attract skilled newcomers to the East Coast, especially those with money.

Nova Scotia has several new provincial nominee programs designed to attract businesspeople and skilled immigrants. The province has even appointed its own immigration minister.

In Nova Scotia, the federal point system determining eligibility is waived, and immigrants are granted landed status within a year or less.

Through regular channels, applicants can wait an average of three years and have to meet strict criteria about their background, education and ties to the country.

In one program, immigrants ready to put down $110,500 are guaranteed access to Canada, providing they are healthy and don't pose a security risk. Ontario remains the only province without a provincial nominee program.

Manitoba was the first to set up a provincial nominee program, which draws thousands of immigrants a year.

Nova Scotia wants to attract 3,700 immigrants a year by the end of the decade to address their declining birth rate and to provide economic opportunities.

www.levert.ca

By IAN ROSS

Northern Ontario Business
COPYRIGHT 2005 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: CONSTRUCTION
Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:876
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