Western Canadian employers court the Irish

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Faced with a massive skills shortage and a surge of job openings, Western Canadian employers are looking to an old source for new workers: hard-up Ireland. This week, two delegations of employers – one from Saskatchewan led by Premier Brad Wall, the other headed by British Columbia and Alberta construction industry representatives – are making a push to entice Irish citizens to leave their economically devastated country and come to Canada, as the ancestors of more than one in eight Canadians did generations earlier.

“We have a construction boom; they have a bust,” said Abigail Fulton, vice-president of the British Columbia Construction Association, whose 11-member delegation is meeting with Irish government, industry and union representatives in Dublin this week. The meetings, she said, are intended “to lay groundwork and develop an inventory of people who are looking for work” – then match the names to companies looking to fill more than 100,000 construction jobs expected to open up in B.C. and Alberta in the next five years.

Like the Alberta-B.C. delegation, the Saskatchewan group, which includes 27 employers, has a big presence at the Working Abroad job fair in Dublin this weekend, giving Canadian exhibitors close to 40 per cent of the booths. The Saskatchewan government has set up a website that greets potential Irish emigrants with the message “Welcome to your future” and hundreds of job postings. The province is even sending immigration officials to help applicants speed the process of moving to Saskatchewan, while Mr. Wall will greet job seekers on Saturday.

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