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Nova Scotia must do more to welcome international students

Halifax, N.S.—The Association of Atlantic Universities released survey results today confirming that most international students are interested in immigration, and for one in three immigration is their primary motivation for studying in Nova Scotia. Government, business, universities and all Nova Scotians must help integrate newcomers into our job market and our communities to ensure they stay.

“Considering Nova Scotia’s locally born 18-29 year-old population is predicted to shrink by 25% between 2011 and 2031, our future depends on attracting and retaining immigrants”, said StudentsNS Executive Director Jonathan Williams. “This AAU study confirms what we’ve been hearing directly across the province: international students want to settle in Nova Scotia. The challenge is to create opportunities for them to do so.”

A recent report from the Greater Halifax Partnership, as well as data from Statistics Canada, young people in Nova Scotia are facing an employment crisis. Fully 97% of new jobs between 2006 and 2012 went to workers over the age of 44, while the 15-24 year-olds have lost 9,600 jobs.

“Immigration regulations require that international graduates find permanent work to gain permanent residency, but all young people have been having a really tough time finding permanent jobs here”, said StudentsNS Vice Chair Matthew Rios. “Businesses and all levels of government must do more to create opportunities for all young people in the workforce, including international students and graduates.”

Importantly, StudentsNS research has shown that international students and graduates face particular challenges. They more often lack personal contacts, are unfamiliar with local workplace cultures and at times face discrimination from employers who are reluctant to hire people with “foreign accents.” Ensuring students feel welcome in general is crucial.

“In our research, we’ve found that social connections are almost as important to students’ decisions about immigrating as employment,” said Williams. “Nova Scotia’s future depends on us being welcoming if we want to people to settle here.”

“In this respect, universities have an important role to play. They can make international students feel unwelcome by levying unfair fees that aren’t comparable to the services they receive”, said Rios. “If we all do right by international students we all stand to benefit.”

Kate Elliot