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Canada making 4,000 jobs available to Jamaicans

LUKE DOUGLAS, Observer writer editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2007    

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CANADA will, over the next three years, be making approximately 4,000 jobs available to trained Jamaicans in various fields in the western section of the country.

The announcement was made yesterday following a number of meetings between government officials and Canadian employers over the last few days.

The group of 23 Canadian employers and financiers met yesterday with representatives from the ministries of labour; industry and commerce; and education to shore up the jobs in Western Canada, which they said has been undergoing a development boom.

Yesterday, Labour Minister Pearnel Charles urged interested Jamaicans to get trained and certified in order to take advantage of the opportunities.

"We have won a global battle to support them (the Canadians) with labour," Charles told the Observer. "We are bringing our training up to be meet their standards, and ensuring that old time discipline among our workers is brought back."

The minister said the jobs were mainly in the construction sector, but there were others in medical and hospitality services as well.

He said projections were for 1,000 workers for next year, and 500 construction workers by January. Also, 50 practical nurses were being recruited immediately, the minister said.

Michael Patterson, a Jamaican university professor living in Canada who organised the employers' visit, said Western Canada had far greater employment opportunities than Ontario, where most Jamaicans have settled.

"The Okanagan Valley is an employee's paradise; you can get just about any job you want," said Patterson, who has lived in Canada for nine years. "Most Jamaicans concentrate their efforts in going to Ontario, but when you look at what jobs are available there, compared with Western Canada, it's like chalk to cheese."

The Okanagan Valley is a section of British Columbia known for its skiing, fruit orchards and wine production.

Patterson, however, had concerns about the levels of literacy and training of some Jamaicans, but said this problem can be overcome.

"There is a problem with illiteracy, but I would not say that it's predominant," Patterson said of persons applying for the jobs. "But what was surprising to me was that illiteracy was in the younger population, persons in their 20s."

Charles, meanwhile, said there was hope for skilled workers with poor reading skills, as his ministry and the Ministry of Education were trying to bring them up to speed.

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