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Saint John Newcomer Job Fair Attracts Hundreds

By Scott Pettigrew Nov 14, 2022 | 2:00 PM

Several hundred candidates attended the YMCA Newcomer Connections Hiring Fair in the atrium at Market Square on Thursday, to speak to nearly 30 potential employers and 10 community support organizations.

The event, which was co-hosted with CCRW (Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work) and the Saint John Newcomers Centre, was the first in-person jobs fair the organization has put on since 2020, and the first one ever with this scale of employers and candidates.

“We had over 450 people register to attend this event,” says Erin Stewart, employment supervisor of YMCA Newcomer Connections. “We’re only 30 minutes in and look around…”

There were approximately 200-300 people there already, at that early stage of the event, tables were bustling with inquiries from candidates, some lined up 10-20 people deep to talk to potential employers.

“This is phenomenal!”  says Jo-Anne Mowry, human resources manager and talent acquisition specialist for Homestar Inc. which had a table at the employment event.

“It’s absolutely fabulous to see this after Covid. I’ve been to a couple of job fairs recently but nothing as vibrant and well attended as this one. We’ve had some great applicants coming through too, so I’m very impressed.”

“We’re looking for everything, we always are” she says. “Carpenters, roofers, siding installers, and sometimes office staff as well.”

Mowry estimates she’s hired close to a dozen immigrants to work for Homestar’s various clients which include the federal government and Irving companies, from places as far afield as Poland, Ukraine, Africa and Brazil. Most of Homestar’s work is in the Saint John area, but some is in northern New Brunswick and they have recently made inroads to Nova Scotia.

Stewart agrees that the international candidates Saint John has attracted, particularly over the last few years, are great.

“The amount of talent that’s coming here is staggering, and people are adding so much value to our economy. They are starting businesses, they are filling labour market gaps, they are paying taxes.”

Abiola Ewubare is a Master of Business Administration graduate from UNBSJ with a specialty in banking.  Tipped off by a friend back home in Nigeria who had spent time in the picture province, that New Brunswick was a good place to study, Ewubare decided on UNBSJ as the place to obtain her Master’s degree.

“I’ve a seen a few” she says of potential employers who are at the fair, including RBC, CIBC, and Xerox. “Because I’m a salesperson too. I’m a professional sales relationship manager, providing services in the financial sector. So those are a few of the companies that piqued my interest.”

With over a decade of previous experience in the banking industry, Ewubare says she intends to join a financial institution where she can make a contribution to the company and the community – preferably here in Saint John.

“Life is easier here. You might not get that city life as such, but you give something to get something,” she observes.

She was encouraged by the fair and by what Saint John has to offer newcomers to Canada, but is aware that opportunity-wise her options are more limited in New Brunswick.

“I can see they embrace diversity and inclusion a lot here and I find that welcoming,” she says of her experience at the university and in the city.

“But I recognize that Saint John, and New Brunswick overall, have limited job opportunities, compared to other provinces like Ontario. The city and the province need to create room for new graduates. The new cohorts in the university are big. If we’re all out here looking for a job, by the time those people graduate, what’s going to be available to them?”

“The province has to create those channels where people can really make the environment grow to where they would like for it to be.”

Retention of talent is a perennial problem in not just New Brunswick, but in many provinces and in Canada as a whole. That’s why working on relationships and connections in the city is such a big focus of the work of the Saint John Newcomers Centre.

“When you’re a newcomer and maybe your family’s here, maybe they aren’t, you’re looking for those supports. I think it’s relationships that keep people connected and that’s what makes people stay.”

It’s just about finding an opportunity attractive enough to get people interested, with a community supportive enough to help them grow roots here in New Brunswick. The first step is job fairs like this one.

“The payoff is huge. Employers get to meet and get to see first-hand, all of these people that are bringing this talent, this skill, to our region. And the newcomer job seekers really feel like a part of the community,” says Stewart.

“Everybody benefits when we have events like this.”

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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