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The NBCC Saint John campus on Grandview Avenue in Saint John. Image: NBCC

N.B. workforce will be affected by student cap: NBCC

By Regis Phillips Jan 26, 2024 | 4:50 AM

The president and CEO of New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) is raising concerns over the temporary cap on international student permits.

Ottawa announced this week that the number of student visas will be reduced by 35 per cent this year as part of a temporary two-year cap on foreign enrollment.

The federal government will allocate student permits based on population and will leave it up to provinces to develop their own criteria and processes for determining institutional allocations.

Mary Butler said NBCC needs to focus on the potential impact on the province and its workforce due to the temporary cap.

“At NBCC we are proud of our mandate to deliver programming which directly contributes to New Brunswick’s labour market needs and which aligns with the priority sectors identified by the provincial government,” said Butler.

“All of this is crucial in a province which faces 130,000 job openings over the next decade, largely driven by a wave of retirements due to our aging workforce.”

“An estimated 65 to 70 per cent of these jobs will require postsecondary education. For New Brunswick businesses and communities to grow – or even sustain current levels – we need a growing, well-skilled workforce.”

Butler said NBCC’s international students play an important in the province’s workforce. The college has seen a 150 per cent increase in international students since 2019, with about 2,200 attending its campuses this year.

“We welcome more international learners than any other New Brunswick institution and, with our provincial mandate, we connect them with communities large and small, rural and urban,” she said.

“In some cases, strong international interest has enabled us to successfully launch new programming in sectors such as engineering and IT where we may need to build more awareness and interest among New Brunswick students.”

Butler noted that the college has a high retention rate after graduation, with about one-half of international NBCC grads still living in New Brunswick three years after graduation.

“For the next best-performing institution that rate is one in four. Practically speaking, that means that of those 2,200 NBCC international learners this fall, we can anticipate 1,100 of them will still be here in New Brunswick three years after graduation,” she said.

“With all this said, we appreciate that in the current context, our approach to enrolment can’t be growth for growth’s sake. NBCC is aware that the decisions we make can influence our larger communities. We have committed to sustainable growth, taking a holistic view and ensuring we are ready to welcome students both in terms of our college capacity and the readiness of the communities we serve.

We already had to make our own tough admissions and enrolment decisions and cancel programs in our recent winter intake based on that very consideration.”

Butler said she hopes the federal measures will take into account institutions and jurisdictions that are welcoming international students in responsible ways and making major contributions to the province’s workforce.

“In making allocations, the provincial government must prioritize New Brunswick’s talent pipeline and not institutional bottom lines.”