Nearly 500 skilled Irish workers could be offered jobs with western Canadian construction companies following recruitment drives earlier this month in Dublin and Belfast.

Job fairs organized by the British Columbia Construction Association attracted about 800 people in Belfast on Oct. 31 and about 2,000 others in Dublin on Nov. 2, said Abigail Fulton, vice-president of the B.C. Construction Association.

She told the Edmonton Journal that 28 companies, mostly from B.C. and Saskatchewan, and two from Alberta, were looking for workers.

"These are highly skilled positions, in specific trades where there are critical shortages, and these people, for the most part, particularly in B.C., are coming in as permanent residents," said Fulton.

Fulton says companies are looking for skilled workers like heavy-duty mechanics and metal fabricators, and she expects there'll be about 484 job offers.

She said many of the recruits will be coming to Canada under British Columbia's provincial nominee program, which allows immigrants and their families in on a permanent basis.

Mark Cooper, president of the Saskatchewan Construction Association Inc., one of the companies attending the recruitment drives, said that employers are having difficulties finding skilled and experienced workers.

"We needed to find markets where they're available, and Ireland is one of those with a high number of skilled, experienced workers, so we felt it was a good market to go."

The Edmonton Journal reports that the B.C. government has estimated there will be more than one-million job openings in the province over the next ten years and that more than 153,000 of those will be among trades, transport, equipment operators and related occupations.