McLennan Ross would like to report on an announcement that
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made at a
luncheon in Calgary on April 10, 2012. He outlined plans to create
a new Skilled Trades Stream to help combat our nation's growing
labour shortages in construction, oil and gas, other natural
resources, and similar industries.
It seems fitting that the news release (click here to read it) was made in Alberta,
where the labour shortage in the construction and oil and gas
industries is expected to be the most severe, given the
province's vibrant long term economic outlook and resources. We
consider the announcement of changes to make it easier and faster
for skilled tradespersons to immigrate to Canada to be a major step
in the right direction, albeit long overdue.
The new streamlined program will fall under the Federal Skilled
Worker Program ("FSWP"), Canada's long time flagship
economic immigration program. The program is being overhauled to
reflect the needs of our current economy. Historically, the FSWP
has arguably placed too much emphasis on years of post-secondary
and not enough on the more practical training tradespeople receive.
In the current system, university graduates with a generic degree
are scoring far more points than a tradesperson is, but in the
existing labour market the latter is often in greater demand. The
new changes will, among other things, facilitate tradespeople
scoring more points for their education.
To mitigate the labour shortage in the trades much more needs to
be done than merely creating this new immigration program. Foreign
credential recognition remains a huge barrier to employers hiring
skilled immigrants and foreign workers. Paradoxically these people
are often unemployed or underemployed at the same time as employers
are unable to find workers to fill their vacant positions. Canada
has among the most stringent qualification standards for
professionals, skilled workers and tradespeople in the world, and
for good reason. We highly value quality of workmanship and safety
in our society. The Federal Government is working, and needs to
work, more closely with the legislative bodies of provincial and
other jurisdictions to improve foreign credential recognition.
Doing so would obviously help both employers in search of skilled
labour and new immigrants in search of employment commensurate with
their training, experience and education.
Another thing that could be done to ease the labour shortage and
improve job prospects for foreign tradespeople, some who later
become immigrants themselves, is expanding the existing Group of
Employers Pilot Project administered by Service Canada. This
project facilitates employers operating in the same industry sector
banding together and forming a Group of Employers collectively
hiring temporary foreign workers in high skilled positions for a
common project/initiative, such as a construction project within
defined locations. Perhaps it could be expanded to facilitate the
mobilization of these workers from one project/location to
Canada needs to do much more to facilitate the entry of
international post-secondary students, including tradespeople, who
not only enrich the cultural and social fabric of our educational
institutions, but often later apply for immigration to Canada
through one of the economic classes. For example, perhaps the
tuition fees for international students, which average more than
three times as much as for Canadians, could be substantially
reduced. Furthermore, it could be made easier for citizens of
countries requiring visas to study in Canada to get them. After
all, most post-secondary students in Canada, and immigrants,
originate from visa requiring countries. These moves would
significantly increase the number of foreigners being educated and
trained in Canada, reducing the need to recognize foreign
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