ANTIGONISH, N.S. - A new program, which will help businesses connect with recent post-secondary graduates, received provincial funding, and a launch event at the CACL/Royal Canadian Legion location in Antigonish, which included Premier Stephen McNeil speaking, Aug. 1.
The program is the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN) Connector Program. Literature provided to folks during the day noted being part of the program, “is a simple ask – one meeting equals three referrals.”
“The Connector Program puts recent grads and newcomers in the eastern Strait region directly in touch with business owners and operators, managers, civil servants, community leaders … people like you,” the hand-out reads. “We need people to grow our economy. One way to grow is to attract young professionals and others with talent and skills and make sure they decide to stay.”
McNeil announced the province is providing $100,000 towards the program which is delivered by ESREN. It was also noted the Connector Program has been up and going in other parts of the province (western region, Annapolis Valley, Halifax and Cape Breton) and that more than 20 communities across the country offer similar programs.
“We’ve had about 2,500 connections, we’ve seen about 1,000 connective jobs created out of it but, more importantly, it builds the confidence to be able to start reaching out and filling the void with the skill shortage we have in our province,” McNeil said, talking to reporters at the conclusion of the launch event.
“Through programs like this, we’ve had higher in-migration than out-migration and we’ve seen more young people stay than leave, that’s a positive sign. It’s the first time in 32 years we’ve seen that trend and we believe that trend will continue this year … it’s very positive.”
During the launch, McNeil stressed that while the government can provide some support and an organization like ESREN can facilitate, for the program to work it really takes a community buy-in.
“As government we play a small role but it will be the private sector and the community who will actually make this a success,” he said. “That is why we want to provide them the ownership of it; we’ll walk with them but it will be a program they’ll have to lead.”
McNeil said the program can be especially helpful for rural parts of the province.
“I don’t go anywhere where people say they don’t want to live in a rural part of our province,” he said. “They want to live there, they just want to have an opportunity and they want to see an opportunity for themselves and their families; this will provide that.”
ESREN chief executive officer John Beaton is quoted in a press release which accompanied the launch.
“Having the Connector Program expanded into the Strait Region provides a solid resource for us to attract and retain the skills needed by the various sectors in our region,” Beaton said. “The growth of our regional economy depends on re-population strategies that include the right kinds of skill sets and this program will be an important piece to us getting there.”
“We’ve been working on this since the spring,” Beaton said of the timing in bringing the program to the Strait region.
“We submitted our proposals and application which was subsequently approved. We hired Matt [Berrigan] and he has begun getting familiar with the area and ‘connectees’ and, now, he is bringing some more of the public pieces together.”
Berrigan is the co-ordinator of the program and he, along with McNeil and Beaton, spoke during the launch event.
“So far I’ve spent the last two months working in the communities, just getting my feet on the ground in those areas,” Berrigan told reporters after the event.
“Just seeing what the community needs, what organizations have the most needs, and making my introductions through there. ESREN has been fantastic in introducing me and the Connector program to our partners.”
Berrigan was asked what he needs from the communities he’ll be working with.
“I need the community to be supportive of the program,” Berrigan said. “As Premier McNeil said today, it’s going to be not only up to myself but also the community and community partners to take full advantage. Organizations and institutions that buy into the program, that’s where we’ll see most of our referrals.”
For more on the program, visit connectorprogram.ca. On ESREN, visit esren.ca.
To reach out to Berrigan, email email@example.com or through firstname.lastname@example.org.