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Canada’s Immigration Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, has stated his wish for Atlantic Canada to retain a higher proportion of its immigrants, particularly international graduates who studied in the region. Minister Hussen spoke Monday morning at the Atlantic Leader’s Summit, an event hosted by the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU).

In reference to the recently launched Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP), Minister Hussen stated, “We want to see fast processing of applications, we want them well integrated into society, and we want to see the retention rate go up. We will take these lessons to other parts of Canada that experience similar challenges.”

Understanding Atlantic Graduates

In order to better understand the behavior of university graduates, AAU partnered with Corporate Research Associates in 2016 and administered an online survey in which approximately 5,000 graduating students from 16 universities and five colleges took part.

The Graduate Retention study sought to evaluate four major areas of concern:

  • Understand graduates’ education experience and their future plans.
  • Assess the reasons why graduates leave after graduation.
  • Determine the factors that would compel graduates to stay.
  • Recognize that opinions would vary based on student type.

The results of the survey on graduates’ learning experience looked at satisfaction with education, work-integrated learning, and the likelihood of graduates recommending their province of study to other prospective students. Graduates who experienced work-integrated learning were overall more satisfied with their learning experience.

The survey also looked at graduates’ plans after completing studies at a post-secondary institution in Atlantic Canada. Overall, the survey results indicate that students have the intention to stay and work in the region. Among the factors that determine graduates’ reasons for staying in a province are quality of life, job opportunities, and cost of living. Quality of life, for most respondents, was linked to proximity to family members and whether there are job opportunities in their field of study. In fact, 82 per cent of those surveyed claimed they would remain in their province of study if they landed an attractive job offer in their field.

Additionally, 75 per cent of international students demonstrated interest in staying in their province of study after graduation and obtaining permanent status in Canada.

While the government of Canada continues efforts to attract skilled immigrants to the Atlantic provinces through a variety of programs, the pressing issue for all graduates of Atlantic institutions remains securing employment. For instance, international students who wish to apply for permanent immigration through the Atlantic International Graduate Program (AIGP) need to obtain a full-time job offer from a qualifying occupation. However, graduates may be able to immigrate without a job offer through other programs, such as those managed under the Express Entry system, or the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

With employment rates gradually increasing in Atlantic Canada, the region may provide more skilled employment opportunities over the coming years.