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The Town of Altona and Municipality of Rhineland are hoping a new federal immigration pilot project will help them address the labour shortage in their area.

Both municipalities have directed the SEED group to submit an application to the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Project in an effort to bring in skilled labour to meet local labour market needs and support regional economic development.

The program is designed to create a new pathway to permanent residency in rural Canada.

Under the criteria of the program, a community must use a local economic development organization to submit the application and have the support of municipal leaders and a local or regionalstephanie harris picStephanie Harris immigrant-serving organization.

SEED stands for Supporting Entrepreneurs through Economic Development and was formed as a joint venture between local business leaders and the municipalities of Altona and Rhineland. The mandate of the organization is to stimulate the local economy and support the creation, expansion, retention, and attraction of local business.

Communities must meet certain criteria to be eligible for the program. They must have a population under 50,000 and there must be a demonstrated need for skilled workers.

The organization's Economic Development Officer, Stephanie Harris, explained how they were able to determine the need that exists in the Altona/Rhineland area.

"We reached out to local businesses and requested letters of support from them. We received between 5 and 10 letters of support and from just those letters alone there are over 118 job vacancies right now that currently require skilled employees."

According to Harris, that number symbolizes only a small percentage of the community's local labour requirements.

She remains fairly confident that their application has a good chance of being accepted.

"I think our community is in a strong position to welcome and integrate newcomers. Our community has a long history of welcoming newcomers and integrating both immigrants and refugees into the social fabric of the community."

Over the past 15 years, Altona has welcomed newcomers from 54 countries and embraced more than 30 refugee families.

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