Mathieu Lefort
Senior Director, International Talent - Montreal International
Part of the Spotlight on Montreal: Canada’s Top Student City

How Montreal Attracts International Talent


  1. Montreal has a number of high-quality and internationally renowned learning institutions which attract high numbers of international students.
  2. Agencies like Montreal International work with international students to help them transition to the labour market successfully.
  3. Montreal’s emerging high-tech sectors serve as a hotbed for skilled international talent and will continue attracting more workers.


With a record amount of $2.2 billion being spent on expansion projects in the city by foreign investors last year, Montreal looks set to continue being an incredibly attractive city for international talent. Foreign investors value its great quality of life, low costs, and safety, which give internationals the assurance that they have chosen the right city to settle in.

How would you describe Montreal’s academic ecosystem and its position as a university city?

Montreal was selected as the best student city in the Americas, tied with Boston, in the last Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) 2022 ranking because of the quality of the education we offer. Montreal is diverse, rich and we can count on more than 12 universities, 60 colleges, private and public colleges and more than 50 vocational training centres. 

There are a lot of programs for international students in Montreal. You can also study in French or in English, so it is a great city in which to learn another language in North America. Also, you can count on great universities and renowned institutions such as McGill University and the Université de Montréal, which are among the top 150 universities in the world. There is also HEC Montréal, another great example in the top 100 best business schools in the world.

“Montreal counts on more than $1 billion in funding for research each year.”

Montreal counts on more than $1 billion in funding for research each year. Doctorate candidates can count on these funds to pursue great work with great researchers in Montreal in different fields, especially in artificial intelligence (AI), aerospace and other emerging sectors. Also, Montreal has a community of more than 50,000 international students.

What are Montreal’s top competitive advantages in terms of attracting international students and skilled global talent?

First of all, the quality of the institutions here attracts great talent. Montreal has great universities and that is the main reason why international students come to Montreal. We also have great high-tech sectors here and many job opportunities for students and young talent coming to Montreal. 

The cost of living here is also important, especially in terms of rents for students. Rent is a big part of student budgets. In addition, the quality of life is great in Montreal. You can do a lot in Montreal, including cultural activities, sports and just 45 minutes from Montreal, you can ski and see the outdoors. We have a great culture to enjoy as a student or worker.

Other things that are important for international students and workers include security. Montreal is a secure city. For parents and families, this is an important factor when your kids are going abroad to study. Montreal remains a secure and safe city for students, especially during COVID-19 times. It is also a city. 34-35% of Montreal’s population was born outside of Canada. People here speak multiple languages.

“In Montreal, more than 50 to 55 percent of people speak both French and English and more than 20 percent of people speak three or more languages.“

In Montreal, more than 50 to 55 percent of people speak both French and English and more than 20 percent of people speak three or more languages. This is the international flavour of Montreal which attracts foreign workers and international students to Montreal.

What role does Montreal International play in attracting international talent and skilled foreign workers to Montreal?

Over the years, Montreal International has launched two important programs for international students and international workers. The first one is I Choose Montréal, a collaboration with the Government of Quebec. Our main goal is to provide information to future international students on why Montreal is the best place to study, what are the main institutions, what are the steps to come to Montreal, what is the reality here and what is the student experience. That is what we do on a daily basis. We also help them transition from student life to the labour market afterwards. 

Our second program for international workers is Talent Montréal, where we showcase Montreal to future international workers, focusing on why it is a great city to work and to live in. We also support employers with two international recruitment solutions. We post job positions online all year long and organize virtual meetings to help employers connect with future candidates that will come to Montreal, especially in the information technology (IT) sector.  

How do Montreal’s academic institutions work with industry to ensure their academic programs meet employers’ needs? 

The economy of Greater Montreal is based on high-tech economic clusters. There are some organizations here that work to represent those sectors to help them grow and make sure they are still attractive. These organizations include Aéro Montréal for aerospace, Montréal InVivo for the life sciences and health technologies and La Guilde du jeu vidéo du Québec for the video game industry. They have strategic talent committees in collaboration with universities, Cégep and vocational training centres. Collaborations between academia and employers in Montreal seek to find solutions and identify projects to help the talent pool continue to grow over the years.

The evolution of university programs is a big part of the conversation too. This is an example of key players, including the employer, institutions and Montreal International, looking at the cluster and making sure university programs continue to answer the employer’s needs in the future.

A good example of this in action is Mila, the world’s largest research centre in deep learning in Montreal with more than 600 researchers and graduate students. They work closely with key industry players and have launched their own programs to make sure their graduate students can get an education that will help them be ready for the artificial intelligence industry.

What would you pitch to foreign investors as to why they should consider Montreal as their next investment destination?

In Montreal, you can count on a strong, diverse, highly qualified, and multilingual talent pool to grow your business. Montreal attracts the best talent in the world because of our high-tech sectors and great educational institutions. 

In 2020, Montréal International recorded a record number of greenfield and expansion projects worth $2.2 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the city. We are really proud of this and it is a great example of how foreign investors consider Montreal a place to invest in. It is just beginning and this trajectory will continue.

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Mathieu Lefort
Senior Director, International Talent - Montreal International

Bio: Mathieu Lefort is the Senior Director of International Talent at Montreal International. Previously, he also served as the Director of International Students and International Talent Attraction at the organization. Prior to joining Montreal International, he worked as the Program Coordinator for HEC Montréal’s Campus Abroad MBA program at its Department of International Business

Organization Profile: Montreal International is the investment promotion agency for Greater Montreal. Its mandate is to attract direct foreign investment, international organizations, entrepreneurs, talented workers and international students to the region. Since its founding, Montreal International has contributed to attracting direct foreign investment projects valued at $18 billion to the region.