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Western firms looking to Ontario for recruits

Welder Robert England has been out of work since his former employer Dana Canada shut its plant in St. Mary's last summer.

"Everyone says: `Go West.' These days anything is worth a try," said the 34-year-old father of two, who welded Ford-150 frames at the plant near London for the past seven years.

Armed with a stack of resum├ęs and high hopes, he and wife Melanie visited the Workwest career caravan in Mississauga yesterday with their 4-year-old son and daughter, 2, in tow, looking for work in Alberta's oil patch.

Ontario's manufacturing sector has been getting hammered lately thanks to the ailing auto industry, the weakening economy and a stronger loonie that's only recently slid back – just not in time for those like England.

A dozen Western Canadian employers at the job fair are chomping at the bit to recruit Ontarians struggling in a tighter job market and eager to sign on as civic planners, labourers, firefighters, transit drivers, electricians, sandblasters, health-care professionals – you name it.

"One of the oil field companies told us the jobs pay $50 an hour. It's hard work, but that makes it worth moving a family of four out there," said England.

Hundreds of others of various ages and training toured the booths yesterday to see what the West and its storied economic boom have to offer them.

Workwest, the Calgary-based company running career fairs for the past two years in Ontario, said despite the recent doom and gloom on world markets, most of B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba continue to thrive, and have yet to feel the fallout Ontario has.

"We burned out our labour pool a long time ago. Even with oil at $64 a barrel instead of $150, these companies are still doing well and projects need to be built," said Workwest president Ray Edwardson.

Gary Griffin and his father Brad drove in from their Haliburton home and found it was worth the three-hour trip. They were thrilled to hear a recruiter for the City of Calgary Fire Department say they're looking for 200 new firefighters next year and another 200 the year after.

"It's difficult to get a job here. They had 800 applicants for the Barrie fire department when I applied," said Gary, 19, who recently graduated from Georgian College's firefighter program and would love to move to Calgary.

"A young guy like me, I've got nothing to lose moving out west," agreed Brandon Chaston, 24, who has struggled to find work in Hamilton after getting a degree in environmental sciences.

Windsor resident Ranjan Subramaniam told exhibitors he's looking for a job in information technology, noting his area has been hard-hit by job losses.

"I lost a job in January because of the U.S. housing crisis," said the 26-year-old, who worked in the banking industry in IT. "I don't mind going where the jobs are."

The job fair continues today from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the International Centre at 6900 Airport Rd. For information about employment opportunities go to [ The Star]

WorkWest Fall Career Caravan November 2008

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