With the province facing a shortage of skilled labour the Coalition Avenir Quebec announced on Monday it would offer subsidies to companies looking to attract foreign workers.

The $54 million program will allow companies that need workers to attain subsidies for 50 per cent of their overseas recruitment missions, with a cap of $5,000. The provincial government will also pay up to $1,000 in moving expenses for newcomers, as well as up to 70 per cent of a new hire’s salary while a local company trains them to the province’s standards.

Nisrin AlYahya, an employability coordinator at La Maisonnee, said she hopes the new subsidies will help reduce the unemployment rate for new immigrants down from 11 per cent. The provincial average is five per cent.

“What does an employer want? He wants productivity. Who would take someone who is not efficient? But now they’re telling them ‘Here you go, you’ll have some money, you’ll be able to help them, give them some eventual possibilities of learning French to integrate into the team,” she said. “I think this is very important.”

The CAQ government, which ran on a platform of reducing Quebec’s immigration numbers by 10,000 per year, called attracting skilled workers a vital part of the economy.

“Those foreign temporary workers are essential to the functioning of the Quebec economy,” said Labour Minister Jean Boulet. “They want to have a system that’s fluid, rapid, diligent and not costly.”

With Quebec’s labour shortage leaving as many as 100,000 jobs vacant, the province’s business community has often been critical of that pledge to reduce the number of newcomers. While the CAQ has passed controversial immigration reform that they said would streamline the process of matching skilled labour to open jobs, the number of economic immigrants to Quebec dropped by 32 per cent in the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period last year.

Quebec Youth Chamber of Commerce President Maximilien Roy said doing more to attract people to the province is vital.

“What I see is that the government said they would do something and they’re doing it. What will be the end result? We’re not there yet but at least they’re doing what they said they would,” he said.