College graduates across northern Ontario can now work closer to home thanks to a free program called Stay North, launched in September 2015.
Six colleges in cities from Thunder Bay to Timmins, North Bay to Moosonee, have collaborated to match graduates with jobs, enabling them to stay in the north. One year into the program, Stay North has matched more than 50 graduates with jobs in health care, IT, graphic design, engineering and the environment. It has already doubled the goal of 25 matches by the end of its mandate in June 2017.
Stay North works with employment agencies, employer groups, individual employers, recruitment agencies, municipalities and chambers of commerce all over the region. Employers also contact Stay North directly to post job openings, says Alex Rogerson, Stay North’s employment liaison officer, who is based in North Bay. Eligible students are encouraged to register before graduation. “We work closely with students for three months prior to graduation to help find suitable jobs for them upon graduation,” she says.
Malinda McKay saw a poster for Stay North as she was finishing her fourth year of a bachelor of science in nursing at Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie in 2016. She registered as soon as she could get to a computer. “It seemed like a program that would work for me,” says McKay, 22. “One of my biggest worries . . . was finding work after finishing. I was also extremely interested in staying in northern Ontario, because it’s where I was born and raised.”
The online registration process was simple, says McKay, and within a day she was contacted by Rogerson, who asked her about her education and career goals. She applied for several jobs posted by Stay North, and was matched with a registered nurse position at a hospital in the Sault Ste. Marie region. McKay wants to stay close to home because of the camping, the wilderness, the scenery and the hiking trails. “I spend a lot of my time in the outdoors, and although there are nice areas down south, nothing beats the beauty of northern Ontario in all seasons,” she says. “There’s always something to do outside here, and I love that.”
Job-seeking students receive support, including interview preparation and cover letter and resumé writing. The service is open to all graduates of eligible programs at the six participating northern colleges.
Stay North is an initiative of Study North, which is funded by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and designed to recruit more students, including those from the south, to study at six northern Ontario colleges: Confederation College, Sault College, Northern College, Collège Boréal, Cambrian College and Canadore College. “Lots of students end up moving out of northern Ontario to find work,” says Rogerson. “The Stay North goal is to help them find employment, first of all in their community, and if not that, then in the north.”
The program is promoted through its website, StayNorth.ca, on campus and through social media. Recent tweets showed a job posting at Nordic Minesteel Technologies for someone with 3D design skills and one for a community economic developer in the township of Pickle Lake.
Students would prefer to stay in the north, says Rogerson, because of the “beautiful landscapes, vibrant sense of community and strong work-life balance.” Since it benefits northern Ontario employers and qualified college graduates, Stay North bills itself as a “win-win solution.”