The Village of Alix will discuss a provincial government immigrant worker program with another organization in town after a large employer in the community voiced interest in it. The discussion was held at the Feb. 7 regular meeting of council.

Councillors read a report from Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White regarding the Rural Renewal Program, an effort to alleviate some employer’s issues finding staff.

According to the Government of Alberta’s website the program is defined thusly: “Rural communities can apply for designation with the intent to attract and recruit newcomers to address labour needs and settle newcomers.”

In her report White stated the Village of Alix was approached by a local employer which voiced interest in this program. 

“A business in our area has requested Alix consider becoming part of the Rural Renewal Stream,” stated the agenda memo.

“This business has several full-time job openings they have not been able to fill using local recruitment efforts.”

The CAO provided councillors with a summary and details of the program in question and observed that it may not necessarily have been designed with municipalities the size of Alix in mind. 

“When reviewing the list of participating communities, it’s worth noting that there were no villages on the list,” stated White.

“Two of the main difficulties for smaller municipalities are ensuring adequate housing (rental spaces) for potential foreign nationals and the ability to provide newcomer supports.

“Alix does have some level of rental housing available and we are close enough to Red Deer that any newcomer supports not available here could be found within a reasonable distance.”

White also pointed out Rural Renewal Stream has strict guidelines that must be followed, including the creation of an Alix committee that would review applicants and make a recommendation about who should be approved. She stated that joining this provincial program takes time.

The CAO’s report noted there are one or two local businesses that have had trouble finding the workers they need.

It was further noted a large employer in Red Deer recently announced layoffs, and White noted that Alix businesses may be able to attract those workers.

Coun. Barb Gilliat stated finding adequate housing for foreign nationals in Alix would be an issue.

The CAO mentioned that judging by the comments made to her from other municipalities, Alix village staff may see an increase in their workload if the municipality becomes part of the Rural Renewal Stream; apparently, stated White, call volume from prospective workers can be heavy.

Gilliat responded that probably explains why villages that tend to have a small staff compliment aren’t part of this program. Gilliat suggested taking this idea to a Chamber of Commerce meeting for feedback.

Mayor Rob Fehr stated he felt the program is a great idea but didn’t want to have more work placed on the village staff.

Coun. Janice Besuijen noted that if the Village of Alix applied to become part of the Rural Renewal Stream the workload could be shared between various community organizations.

Fehr responded that might be the only way to do it. “To me, it should be collaborative anyway,” said the mayor.

Councillors unanimously passed a resolution that the Village of Aix contact the local Chamber of Commerce to get their input on the Rural Renewal Stream idea.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 15, 2024 at 09:33

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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