Immigrant Settlement & Integration Services (ISIS) has changed its name to Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS). Though our name has changed, the essence of our organization remains the same: We are dedicated to welcoming and supporting immigrants to Nova Scotia. We believe that helping immigrants build their future here creates a stronger province. We all benefit from the knowledge and perspective that immigrants bring.
Next year, ISANS will celebrate 35 years of service to immigrants in Halifax. With over 125 staff members from over thirty countries of origin, ISANS is the largest immigrant-serving agency in Atlantic Canada. ISANS is a key partner in attracting, integrating and retaining immigrants to Nova Scotia.
The Ivany Report reminded Nova Scotians once again that our province needs many more immigrants to help offset our demographic decline and to bring in innovative approaches and energy and diversity. Many organizations are focusing on how we can bring in and keep more immigrants to Nova Scotia.
We face several challenges in this regard. Many potential immigrants have not heard of our province and are drawn to the better known larger centres. At the same time, federal immigration policies and procedures have changed significantly over the past several years, limiting the independence which provinces had gained in this domain in previous decades. It remains to be seen how the upcoming introduction of the Express Entry system will impact smaller provinces such as ours.
What many do not realize is that we have a number of advantages that we can continue to develop and leverage to help us maximize the benefits of immigration for Nova Scotia. The retention of immigrants to our province has increased in encouraging measure. From 38% in the late 1990s, our retention rate has risen to 70%. This reflects the impact of the establishment of the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration and its funding for targeted and effective services.
Well-developed settlement services are essential to retaining new immigrants. Even highly skilled newcomers need orientation to their new home and culture. Many also need introductions to the community, some bridging into networks and connections for employment opportunities. Swift integration supports retention, which in turn can improve attraction of more immigrants. Nova Scotia develops a reputation as a welcoming place where immigrants can establish themselves without long years of struggle.
Nova Scotia is now a leader in helping immigrant professionals find work in their fields. By establishing profession-specific multi-stakeholder groups, ISANS and our partners have addressed many of the challenges that face those who come to work in the regulated professions. For example, in the pharmacy profession, international pharmacy graduates (IPGs) across the country, about 50% are successful in passing their first exam on the first attempt. With an active study group program in Nova Scotia, 83% are successful. Significant advances have also been made in the professions of medicine, engineering and dentistry. Immigrants in Nova Scotia are twice as likely to be working in their fields as those in Ontario or Quebec.
ISANS has become a national leader in providing innovative, customized and effective services to new immigrants. We were the first settlement organization in Canada to provide online and pre-arrival programs. Currently, ISANS has 62 different programs and services available online or by distance delivery. We are working with 314 immigrants who are still in their home countries. Before the stress of their move, they can begin to learn about how to do a job search in Nova Scotia, improve their English skills and start to understand the culture that they are about to join. 90% of our pre-arrival clients are employed within six months of their landing here.
We are also fostering the entrepreneurial spirit which many immigrants bring to their new country. ISANS has supported 33 immigrant entrepreneurs in starting new businesses over the past year. We also offer services to employers, such as the online Skills Match, the opportunity to hold on-site recruitment and information sessions, and the possibility of trying a newcomer at work in your company through a six-week (unpaid) work placement.
ISANS is committed to collaboration, innovation, respect, accountability and diversity. There are many ways in which we partner to make Nova Scotia stronger by helping immigrants to build their future here. We welcome you to join us in this work. For more information, please visit www.isans.ca.