When thousands of Syrian refugees began arriving in the Maritimes, the first concern was to find appropriate housing. Now in New Brunswick, attention has turned towards getting more newcomers employed, to keep them on the east coast.

Between November 2015 and the end of July 2016, 1,421 Syrian refugees arrived in New Brunswick. Of those, 583 are over 18-years-old, and 103 of them are employed.

Finding employment for the other 80% is now the challenge.

"I think having 20% the working age adults connected to the labour market is a great success, given they've only been here for eight to 10 months,” says New Brunswick Multicultural Council’s executive director Alex Leblanc. "The ideal scenario right now is that the Syrians are able to work part-time while also developing the language for long term integration. So if an employer has part-time jobs, or if they're looking at creating a position, engage with the multicultural association in your region."

The minister responsible for training and labour, Donald Arseneault says the current employment numbers are expected, but they need to be improved. He says he's been told by Ottawa, if New Brunswick wants to continue accepting newcomers to the region, the province will need to improve its retention rate.

Right now, the rate in New Brunswick is 72%.  The government hopes to bring it up to the national average of 80-85%.

“We know the demographics in New Brunswick indicate that we're going to need newcomers to come to our region, to invest money that they have, to build families,” says N.B. Liberal MP Matt Decourcey.

Both the federal government and the province announced a program this week, which will connect newcomers with soon to be retired business owners who would like to see their legacies continued.

Areseneault says New Brunswick needs more initiatives like that, especially since the province expects 300 more Syrian refugees by the end of December.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.