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IanO
28-04-2007, 12:34 PM
Alberta ignoring obvious head-hunting grounds
No government or private sector reps at huge Detroit job fair
Gary Lamphier, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2007

EDMONTON - News flash: there was a giant jobs fair in Detroit Friday.

Thousands of eager job seekers showed up at the city's Cobo Conference Center, resumes in hand. Dozens of employers were there too, including AT&T, Comerica Bank, and Fidelity Bank, to name a few.

The event was sponsored by the Detroit branch of the NAACP -- the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- in partnership with Wayne State University, and various government agencies.
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Since I grew up in Windsor, a stone's throw from Detroit, this caught my eye. When I was in my hometown three weeks ago, local papers and TV news shows were filled with tales of worker layoffs, plant closures, and falling house prices.

Metro Detroit's unemployment rate is now among the highest in the U.S. Overall, Michigan lost roughly 44,000 jobs over the past year -- by far the largest drop of any state in the U.S.

Windsor's jobless rate, which has soared to nearly 10 per cent, is the highest of any major city in Canada. One could say the local mood is ugly -- and it's getting worse.

Motown's struggles provide a sharp contrast to the picture in sizzling Alberta, where employers are desperate to find workers. At least, that's what we keep hearing from the Alberta government, which predicts a shortage of 100,000 workers in the years to come.

Yet, no Alberta rep was on hand at Detroit's jobs fair. Neither were any of Alberta's labour-hungry employers, who appear more interested in scouring for workers in China, Romania, or other far-off locales.

I know this because I called the NAACP's Detroit office, where a friendly young woman named Collette Cooper answered the phone.

"As far as I know, we haven't had anybody come from umm, your area," she said. I got the distinct impression Collette has never heard of Alberta, or its economic boom, but I could be mistaken.

"I'm pretty sure people here aren't aware of it. But I'm sure if that information was out there, a lot of people would be interested. Actually, a lot of people are leaving Michigan for reasons of employment," she added.

Over at Michigan State University in Lansing, it was the same story. Kelley Bishop, who runs MSU's career services office, said he's never heard any talk about Alberta's oilsands, or the province's spectacular growth.

"I usually think of Alberta as a place with beautiful scenery, a wonderful vacation spot. That's probably a stereotypical view," he said, apologetically.

"Some fellow from Canada did come to one of our career fairs, simply to walk around," he added. "He wasn't representing a company, but we thought that was interesting.

"In fact, I think we said 'Wow, it's the first time we've seen somebody come from overseas.'"

Carol Stier, events manager at MSU's career services office, said she just organized a jobs fair for education students last week -- one of 12 jobs fairs her office has organized over the past year.

"There were some (Michigan employers) that might have one or two job openings available, and there would be 600 applicants for that position," she said.

Yet, despite the abundance of qualified job seekers, and the dearth of local jobs, no one from Alberta's government or private sector has come to recruit grads from MSU, she said.

It's hardly an obscure school. In fact, MSU is significantly larger than the U of A, with 45,000 students enrolled in 14 degree-granting programs, from engineering to business. Most speak english, too, which might come in handy in Alberta.

While Detroit's jobs fair was underway Friday, Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry Minister Iris Evans was in Berlin, on the final leg of a 10-day, $30,000 trip that featured previous stops in London and Paris. Her mission: to boost investment and immigration in Alberta.

I'm not quibbling. I'm sure Evans' trip was worthwhile.

But when I asked the minister's spokesperson why Evans has never travelled to Michigan -- several time zones, one ocean, and one official language closer to Edmonton than Berlin -- she couldn't offer an explanation.

"You're right, in some ways there are a lot of markets closer to home," she said. "But some of the issues are the same. We really need to focus on credential recognition, and that's something that we need the professional associations to help us with," she added.

"But in terms of exploring places closer to home, I guess we certainly should be looking at those markets as well."

Yep. I'd say that would be a good idea. Hanging out in Detroit probably isn't as much fun as London, Paris, or Berlin, perhaps. But it's a lot cheaper. And it sure sounds like there's a steady supply of workers there.

"Just put a big headline on your story that says, 'Michigan State welcomes you, and any employer who wants to come down and talk to our students,' " said MSU's Bishop.

"They can call me at (517) 884-1348. That's my administrative assistant's line. She's a little more accessible than I am most of the time. You know, one of the things we have in common is that everybody here loves hockey. You'd think that would bond us together."

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The Edmonton Journal 2007

psiebold1
01-05-2007, 08:12 PM
Immigration problems, I presume.

RichardS
01-05-2007, 10:02 PM
Actually under NAFTA this is rather easy. The biggest hurdle, getting them to move to Canada period.