Record number of international students staying in N.S. after studies

‘That’s exactly what we want for the province,’ says Nicole Johnson-Morrison, CEO of EduNova

 

Nova Scotia retained a record number of international students studying in the province in 2018 and eclipsed a goal laid out in the 2014 Ivany report for the first time.

The report was a plan to revitalize Nova Scotia’s economy and set ambitious targets for Nova Scotians to strive for by 2024, including growing the number of business startups, doubling tourism revenues and increasing exports. It also aimed to retain more than 10 per cent of the international students that come to the province.

According to One Nova Scotia, the organization that measures progress toward the goals of the Ivany report, the retention rate rose to 12.6 per cent in 2018, up from 9.4 per cent in 2017.

Ifeanyi Emesih is one of those students who stayed, after coming to Nova Scotia from England in 2007 as an international student at Mount Saint Vincent University.

Emesih went on to become an entrepreneur and founder of a marketing company called My East Coast Experience, which tells stories about the newcomer experience through a website and magazine. He thinks the province has done well in attracting immigrants in general, but said there is still more work to be done on student retention.

Ifeanyi Emesih is an entrepreneur in Halifax and originally moved to Nova Scotia as an international student. (Submitted by Ifeanyi Emesih)

“I think the question we should be asking ourselves is, ‘Why do people not stay?’ and the No. 1 answer is jobs,” he said.

“One of the things we want to see is, I would say, more internships or more opportunities while they’re still in universities. They should be able to go out and have some employment experience, so that when they graduate it’s easier for them to transition into the job market.”

Emesih said one of the reasons he created his website was to share his experience and help other students who are thinking about staying.

Personal mentoring

An organization that is working to retain international students through work experience is EduNova, which is funded through the province to run a program called “Study and Stay.” The program debuted in 2016 with a goal of mentoring about 50 students each year, and convincing at least 80 per cent of them to stay. In 2018, it expanded to the other Atlantic provinces.

The Nova Scotia program exceeded its target in the first year and last year retained 93 per cent of the yearly class.

“We’re quite excited by it because the fact is that’s exactly what we want for the province. We want to see it grow, we want to see more international students using their education, the opportunity here to grow the province,” said Nicole Johnson-Morrison, the president and CEO of EduNova.

Nishka Rajesh graduated from Saint Mary’s University and completed the Study and Stay program. (Submitted by Nishka Rajesh)

Johnson-Morrison said that she feels Nova Scotia has done a good job of providing supports around helping immigrants settle. She also pointed out that Nova Scotia is one of the most affordable places for immigrants in Canada to buy a home and start a family.

Nishka Rajesh graduated from Saint Mary’s University last year and attributes her ability to network and find a job to skills she learned at the Study and Stay program. She got her job at the Halifax Partnership several months after first meeting her current supervisor at a networking event.

“I met him and I gave my elevator pitch,” she said. “He wasn’t hiring at that moment, but fast forward a few months, he called me up and let me know there was a position I could apply for. I applied and did the interview, and I’m here right now.”

Calculating the retention rate

One Nova Scotia calculated in 2018 there were 9,137 international students enrolled at Nova Scotia universities, and 1,155 new permanent residents who held a study permit at one time.

It uses those numbers to calculate a retention rate of 12.6 per cent, although it cautions that doesn’t measure an individual student’s likelihood of staying.

A comparable calculation showed a retention rate of 3.6 per cent in 2005.

However, One Nova Scotia said there are some goals in the Ivany Report where the province is not on track, including raising the employment rate gap for Indigenous and black citizens to the provincial average, and the youth employment rate.

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