How to Attract and Retain Workers During Times of Population GrowthAugust 31, 2023

Story by Apex East Coast Business Magazine

(Originally published by Apex East Coast Business Magazine)

The population of Cape Breton Island grew by about 1,200 people between 2021-2022. This was a significant change for a region that has been losing its talent to the rest of Canada and the world for more than four decades. New growth after years of decline is a new and welcome reality happening in many places in Canada, and it requires new approaches to attracting and retaining workers.

As part of Nova Scotia’s Population Growth Strategy, Nova Scotia aims to double its population to two million by 2060. The province plans to achieve this by attracting 25,000 newcomers per year, through a combination of immigration and inter-provincial migration. For Unama’ki – CapeBreton, this means we must double our population to 260,000 by 2060, and we must welcome at least 2,000 people

But what does this mean for business owners and employers?

Many business owners throughout Nova Scotia continue to struggle to find skilled workers to fill the increasing number of job vacancies that seem to be growing as fast as the population. Ironically, it seems more difficult to attract and retain talent during population growth, than it was during the years of decline. This challenge has prompted new programs, services, and industry best-practices, including the Graduate to Opportunity (GTO) program, Immigration Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Outreach Officers that can help employers navigate Canada’s immigration system, and companies adapting their human resource functions to improve job postings, descriptions and communication between employers and employees. These solutions, and others like them, are opportunities you should take advantage of.

“Remember as well that newcomers bring new ideas and energy.” – Tyler Mattheis, President and CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership

The GTO program offered by the Government of Nova Scotia is one way to address labour shortages by hiring new graduates, and it comes with a salary incentive: 25 per cent of the first year’s salary and 12.4 per cent of the second year’s salary.

The Government of Canada has local outreach officers that can help employers attract, hire, and retain qualified workers from abroad to fill labour needs. By starting with a discussion with these officers, you can quickly determine if programs are available for your industry, location, or company’s growth stage.

Human resource capacity continues to be a challenge, as businesses who traditionally leveraged personal networks now have to create compelling job descriptions and consider their advertising strategy. In Sydney, some employers are finding success by using recruitment services like Anchored Recruiting, and others are utilizing tools available on the Government of Canada’s Job Bank or local online supports like the Cape Breton Job Board. Still others are looking to hire (or train) human resources staff in-house, often starting by reaching out to the Nova Scotia chapter of the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources. Look for these or similar supports in your area.

This also means we must adopt new ways to make sure they are welcomed in our workplaces, social groups and connected to the community in meaningful and lasting ways are critical for our long-term success. Innovation in attracting, retaining, and benefiting from new employees is also critical for success as we grow our population and communities.

By using tools and opportunities available now, you can attract and retain workers during times of population growth.

Tyler Mattheis is the President and CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership, Unama’ki – Cape Breton’s private sector-led economic development organization and the administrator of Cape Breton’s Regional Enterprise Networks.