CANADA hopes to recruit tens of thousands of Irish workers over the next couple of years to fill a labour shortage in a wide range of occupations, the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland said yesterday.
A strong economy coupled with massive infrastructure projects and booming fisheries, mining, oil and natural gas industries has the country crying out for workers.
"I'm hearing numbers like between 30,000 and 40,000 in construction alone," Ambassador Loyola Hearn told the Irish Independent.
All 5,000 holiday work visas open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 35, were snapped up this year, prompting immigration officials to increase the quota to 5,350 for 2012.
There are no official statistics available but it's estimated that around 10,000 Irish have already relocated to Canada over the past two years.
And there are still untold opportunities for workers with wide-ranging levels of skill who can be accommodated under various work visa schemes.
The embassy held a jobs fair at Croke Park in Dublin last weekend focusing on job opportunities in the four Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
There is also a huge demand for workers in a wide range of jobs in the western provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
There is a wide range of salaries and perks depending on the job and levels of experience.
Rents vary according to the location, with major cities like Toronto and Vancouver commanding rents starting at CA$1,000 (€720) a month for a small apartment.
And there will be more job fairs to come, Mr Hearn said. But already Canada was seeing a massive influx of Irish workers.
"We've surpassed the US now with emigration and are second behind Australia," he said. And such is the level of emigration and business between Canada and Ireland that the embassy is spearheading a campaign to establish regular direct flights between the two countries, he added.
The only direct flights operate on a seasonal basis to the major hubs of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Fares start at around €300 one way including taxes and surcharges.
There are other international flights between Ireland and Canada but they require stop-overs in other countries.
Mr Hearn, who hails from Newfoundland -- a mere four hours' flight away -- said he was forced to fly to London, England, for a flight to Toronto and then backtrack on another three-hour flight east.
The embassy -- along with the Dublin Airport Authority, Failte Ireland, Dublin City Council and Irish-Canadian business and community organisations -- is developing a business plan it hopes will result in one of the major airlines opening up a direct link in the near future.
"It's going to be good for both countries," Mr Hearn said.