Alberta Called Brit Poacher

Alberta called Brit poacher
Calgary attracts 55 potential recruits

Kim Guttormson and Jason Fekete
Calgary Herald
Published: Thursday, July 03, 2008

The City of Calgary is trumpeting a successful recruiting trip to England, but the effort is hitting a sour note in the British press, with some accusing Alberta of poaching.

“It was definitely a very high success,” said Cindy Munn, lead for the city's corporate recruitment and staffing initiative.

She said city recruiters are returning this week with the names of at least 55 potential employees.

The city was taking part in job fairs that target those looking to move to Canada. The province also had a presence, hoping to lure desperately needed foreign workers to Alberta.

But the provincial campaign stoked the ire of the British media, which attacked it for trying to poach some of its finest doctors, teachers, nurses and engineers.

“It is one of the most audacious recruitment raids since Australia poached a million Britons — known as the Ten Pound Poms after the ship fare they paid — in the 1950s and '60s,” suggests a story in the London-based Daily Mail.

“Last night — on the eve of Canada Day, Canada's national celebration — there were fears that the scheme will deepen the crisis in the (National Health Service) and other services struggling with severe staff shortages,” the story said.

Stories extensively quoted Employment and Immigration Minister Hector Goudreau and his pitch on why Alberta is a good choice for disaffected Britons.

Goudreau, who returned late Wednesday, touted Alberta's competitive salaries, reduced cost of living and beautiful mountain scenery.

Officials with Alberta Employment and Immigration noted the government expects some negative coverage whenever it's on a recruiting mission, but has a good product to sell.

“You'll always get those types of (negative) things,” said department spokesman James Frey. “It's giving people an idea that there's lots of opportunities in Alberta.

“Consider us as an option . . . We're not saying you need to come here.”

The provincial campaign's success in attracting skilled workers likely won't be known for a few weeks, once officials are able to measure inquiries and responses from Europe.

Although the city has a list of 55 recruits from England, Munn said there are still a number of steps to go through before any hirings can be finalized.

The city planning department expects to extend offers to as many as 15 people, while fleet services has already made conditional offers to 11 heavy duty mechanics.

Calgary Transit made conditional offers to 25 operators and four mechanics during its testing in Leeds and continued to test and interview potential employees this week in London.

Munn said because the city recruiters in England are looking to fill specific jobs that are already approved by the federal government through a labour market opinion, they're able to more quickly determine the success of the trip.

Twenty-six staff attended two-day sessions in both Leeds and London, looking for 15 senior planners, 200 transit operators and 50 heavy duty mechanics. It was the first time the City of Calgary sought workers internationally since the late 1970s.

David Watson, general manager of planning, development and assessment, said his staff was impressed by the quality of the candidates they attracted in Leeds and London.

“We're hoping within this month we'll be making offers,” he said, adding they're confident there will be more than 15 people worth hiring. The department is still waiting to see the results of local efforts to fill some of those jobs but said they haven't had much success finding candidates in North America.

“We were very impressed with the experience and quality of the people,” Watson said of the more than 50 people interviewed in the U.K. Munn said they'll evaluate the England sessions before determining whether participating in other overseas ventures make sense.