Manitoba may not be the most popular vacation destination, but for people seeking employment in the Great White North it's a pretty good place to settle.
Statistics Canada reported Friday the province is home to the highest employment rate in the country for landed immigrants ages 25 to 54. The agency said 82.5 per cent of immigrants in this core age group living in Manitoba were employed in 2011, well above the national average of 75.6 per cent.
Graham Starmer, president and CEO of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, said it's great news for the province's business community.
"Immigration is extremely important to the province and responsible for most of the growth over the past couple of years," he said. "The number of immigrants employed here reflects the level of acceptance within the province's business community."
A total of 13,151 immigrants representing more than 400 occupations were employed in the province in 2011, according to a report from the Manitoba provincial nominee program.
"Newcomers are important to Manitoba's population growth and to the rejuvenation of the labour force," said the report, adding the majority of Manitoba's immigrants in 2011 came from the Philippines.
Statistics Canada said the employment rate for immigrants across the country rose 4.3 per cent this year and held steady at about 83 per cent among Canadian-born citizens. The rate in Manitoba was slightly higher at about 85 per cent.
Even with the increase, however, the national employment rate among immigrants is still 1.8 per cent lower than in 2008 prior to the economic downturn.
While the manufacturing sector is still struggling to create jobs, the report said, employment in the health-care and social-assistance sectors has been growing.
When Ducila Torres moved to Winnipeg from Guatemala in 1992, she had a junior high education and spoke very little English. After two years of ESL (English as a second language) training and employment counselling with the International Centre of Winnipeg, she found work as a local farmhand.
"At first, I wasn't confident because of my English," said Torres, who was born in El Salvador. "For most immigrants, the hardest part is the (job) interviews because we are new here and we are still thinking how we would respond to the questions back home."
After stints working at a local movie theatre and the Health Sciences Centre, Torres was hired as a health-care aide with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, where she has worked for the past 12 years.
"At first, I was afraid," she said of applying for jobs in Manitoba. "But once I learned English, finding work wasn't too complicated."
Provincial initiatives such as the Workplace Integration of Skilled Workers in the Trades have gone a long way in helping immigrants find jobs. Launched in 2010, the program has worked with about 120 clients, 70 of whom are currently working in Manitoba as tradespeople.
Karen Sharma, the program manager, said it provides immigrants with resources and training that increases their employability and earning potential.
"The average wage increase for all of our clients is about $7.50 per hour," she said.