Canada’s skills gap continues to widen, according to study

According to a new study from global recruiting firm Hays PLC, which surveyed the skills gap in 30 developed countries around the world, Canada ranks ninth for the severity of its skills shortage, and its score deteriorated in the past year.

Countries such as Japan, the United States, Germany and Sweden top the list in skilled worker shortage.

Study shows that Canada ranks 9th in the developed world in shortage of skilled workers

The report highlights two key findings

First, the state and the efficiency of a labour market in any particular country is not necessarily driven by the state of the economy in that point in time. Rather, the data suggests through the index that the efficiency of the labour market is driven by more structural factors. That said, the governments can introduce reforms to improve those structural factors, regardless of where they are in the economic cycle.

The second key finding that the index illustrates is that there is a very strong link between the efficiency of an educational system and the ability of that economy to produce the talent that the nation’s industries require both today and in the future. Making sure that business and the educational systems are in sync to produce sufficient numbers of the right quality graduates in the right areas for future talent. That’s the fundamental part of what drives the efficiency in any particular market.

As the global economy recovers and as the Canadian work force continues to age, without a change in policy, the situation in Canada and other developed countries will likely get worse. Canada is falling behind in implementing enough changes to meet the demand for highly skilled migration.

How to improve the skilled worker shortage and avoid disaster in the future

As according to Alistair Cox, the chief executive of Hays PLC, there are three areas where business and the governments can work together to strengthen these labour markets and reduce these inefficiencies that we see in some of these economies:

The first is for the government to foster a business environment of flexibilities, where businesses can build the work force they need for the future. This can be achieved through flexible working arrangements and skilled immigration.

The second method is to make sure that the educational system in an economy are really tuned into what businesses are going to need in the future in terms of the number of right skills.

The third is for businesses to look at their own policy in terms of attracting and retaining staff. Not just younger staff but also retaining and retraining older staff within their own work force.

Immigration Canada making changes

It’s not yet known how effective it will be, however, Canada is working on some changes in the system that are expected to be implemented in late 2014. Last year, Immigration Canada and the provinces, reached an agreement on the future of Canadian immigration system. The system will give the provinces a central role in immigrant selection. This new system will be based on a model called Expression of Interest (EOI).

The EOI model is an immigrant selection process which requires those seeking to immigrate to first file a simplified application, with immigration authorities. From that pool of applicants, the most promising candidates, based on the immigration department’s selection criteria, are then selected, and invited to submit a full application which includes documentation to prove their claimed qualifications.

Canada’s Immigration Backlog Reduced by 40 Percent

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced on Tuesday that his department had reduced the backlog of permanent resident applications by forty percent since 2008 (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) backlog of permanent resident applications has declined by forty percent since 2008, according to a CIC announcement on Tuesday.

A freeze in the acceptance of new Federal Skilled Worker and Federal Immigrant Investor applications, in place since July 2012, and an indefinite suspension of the parent and grandparent sponsorship stream of the Family Class immigration program, have reduced the rate at which CIC is receiving new permanent resident applications and allowed it to work through the backlog.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney applauded the development in a press conference, saying a reduced backlog would allow for a faster and better immigration system:

“Backlogs and delays prevent Canada from attracting the best and brightest from around the world and ensuring that our immigration system is contributing to economic growth and long-term prosperity. For too long, we accepted far more applications than we could process each year. That led to backlogs increasing every year and processing times of eight to ten years in some cases, which discouraged talented, dynamic people from coming to Canada.”

CIC’s goal is to reduce processing times of applications for permanent residence to less than one year, from the sometimes over five years that it has taken in recent years.

The eventual goal is to put in place an Expression of Interest (EOI) model by the end of 2014, which will solicit simplified applications from foreign nationals interested in immigrating to Canada and invite the most promising applicants to submit a full application.

Federal, Provincial Governments Reach Agreement on Future Canadian Immigration System

Provincial immigration ministers met over two days in Toronto last week to discuss details of the new Expression of Interest (EOI) immigration system (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) governments concluded two days of meetings on Friday with an agreement on the future of Canada’s immigration system which will give the provinces a central role in immigrant selection.

On the agenda for the FPT immigration ministers were the details of the upcoming Expression of Interest (EOI) model for the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, which Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is planning to implement by the end of 2014.

The EOI model is an immigrant selection process which requires those seeking to immigrate to first file a simplified application, or “Expression of Interest”, with immigration authorities.

From that pool of applicants, the most promising candidates, based on the immigration department’s selection criteria, are then selected, and invited to submit a full application with includes documentation to prove their claimed qualifications.

The EOI model was first adopted by New Zealand and then more recently by Australia. CIC believes it holds the promise of eliminating the application back-logs that have plagued Canada’s immigration department over the last decade while admitting immigrants with the language, education, age and skill profiles needed to be successful in the Canadian labour market.

The FPT meeting, which was attended by all provincial and territorial immigration minister with the exception of the immigration minister of Quebec, gave unanimous approval for an EOI model for Canada in which provinces and employers select the most promising candidates from the list of EOI applicants, who are then selected to be among the limited number of applicants to be invited to submit a full application.

Co-Chairing the FPT Meeting was Alberta Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, Stephen Khan, who voiced the provincial ministers’ support for the plan:

“On behalf of the provinces and territories, we look forward to continuing our work with the Government of Canada to transform the immigration system, making it faster and more responsive to provincial/territorial needs.”

Immigration Department: 1 Year Canadian Experience Class Launching Jan 2013

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney tweeted more details in recent days about coming changes to the Canadian Experience Class and Federal Skilled Worker programs

The length of time that a temporary foreign worker needs to have worked full-time in the Canada to qualify for permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration program will be reduced from 24 months to 12 months in January 2013, according to a tweet by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The long expected change in the CEC program’s work experience requirement is intended to increase the share of immigrants that come through the program, as Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) considers immigrants with Canadian work experience as more likely to be successful in integrating into Canada’s labour market than those who are admitted under more traditional routes like the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program.

The announcement on the date of the CEC program rule change was made in a response to a tweet directed to Kenney, who is quite active on the micro-blogging site, on November 5th:

@KaushikJay The new 1 year threshold for high-skilled temporary foreign workers to qualify for CDN Experience Class will start January, 2013

In a series of tweets on November 4th, Kenney also described when and in what form the revamped FSW program will be launched.

He posted that the final details for the relaunched program would be released in the “1st half of 2013″ and that there would only be “a very limited number of new applications” accepted in 2013, to help CIC “asses [sic] the new grid & educational evaluation”.

He also posted that CIC’s goal was to launch the new Expression of Interest model for the FSW program “around late 2014 / early 2015″.

CIC placed a moratorium on accepting new applications through the FSW program in July 2012, to give it time to deal with the program’s pending application backlog and to design new selection rules and assessment procedures that it says will make the program more economically beneficial for Canada and its application review process faster.

Canadian Immigration Department Details its Achievements, Expects Reduction in Wait Times

CIC plans to adopt an Expression of Interest (EOI) model for the Federal Skilled Worker Program similar to that in place in New Zealand.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) summarized what it considers the successes of its reforms in recent years in a press release on Friday. CIC said that it expects that by the end of 2013, it will be able to process applications as they are received, and complete their processing within one year.

It said that this will open the door to the adoption of the Expression of Interest (EOI) model for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and possibly other economic immigration streams.

The EOI model requires applicants to submit a simplified preliminary application detailing their qualifications, and allowing provinces and employers to select the most promising of those applicants, who are then invited by CIC to submit a full application that includes documents proving their qualifications.

“The Government’s number one priority remains the economy and job growth. Immigration backlogs are detrimental to our ability to attract the world’s top talent,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in describing the purpose of moving to a “just in time” EOI system of immigration admittance.

“With the decisive actions we’ve taken to tackle the backlog, we will finally be able to select immigrants who better meet the needs of the Canadian labour market. We will aim to process their applications in less than 12 months.”

CIC also detailed the measures it has taken in recent years to address a problem that has long afflicted the FSWP: the large volume of applications that exceed the program’s annual quota and lead to wait times as high as eight years:

  • In 2008, only accepting FSW applications from individuals qualified in an occupation on the “priority occupations” list.
  • In 2010, adding a quota to the number of new applications accepted.
  • In June 2012, eliminating most of the FSW applications on the backlog that were received before February 27, 2008.
  • In July 2012, temporarily pausing acceptance of new FSW applications, except for applicants with a qualifying job offer and those applying under the PhD stream.

These measures, said CIC, have reduced the FSWP backlog from 640,000 people in 2008 to 100,000 today.

CIC plans to re-start the FSWP in 2013, and admit 55,300 people over the year, approximately the same as the 55,000–57,000 quota for the program in 2012. It said that new rules for a revamped FSWP will be published later this year.

Expert Roundtable Submits Report on Immigration to Ontario Government

Julia Deans, chair of the 13-member roundtable on immigration strategy, presenting the panel’s report to Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Charles Sousa (Government of Ontario)

A 13-member expert roundtable, appointed seven months ago by the government of Ontario to advise the province on the development of a provincial immigration strategy, submitted its report yesterday, and it includes 32 recommendations for the province.

The key recommendations of the report are:

    • Aiming to increase the proportion of economic class immigrants, meaning those who immigrate through skilled worker and business immigration programs, to 65-70 percent. The report notes that the percentage of economic class immigrants has fallen from over 64 percent in 2001, to 52 percent today, while the proportion of family and refugee class immigrants has increased. Immigrants in the latter categories are more likely to face problems integrating into Ontario’s labour market than economic class immigrants.
    • Increasing Ontario’s total immigration levels to 135,000 people a year, or one percent of Ontario’s population, to alleviate the decline in the province’s working-age population, which the roundtable expects will put pressure on the provincial government’s budget.
    • Shifting the focus of immigration selection to human capital and away from immediate labour needs, due to evidence showing that an immigrant’s level of human capital, meaning their skills, education and language proficiency, is the best predictor of earnings growth and employability.
    • Ontario continuing to rely on the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) as the main source of economic immigration to the province, and recommending that the federal government eliminate the Federal Skilled Worker Class’ priority occupations list.
    • Recommending that the federal government delegate immigration selection for the purposes of responding to specific occupational shortages to Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) run by provinces. In line with this recommendation, encouraging the federal government to increase the quota for Ontario’s PNP from current 1,000 to 5,000 people per year.
    • Reducing the amount of low-skilled temporary foreign workers that it allows in the province for extended periods, as it depresses wages by giving Canadian employers a below-market wage alternative to hiring Canadians.
    • Shifting the focus of the temporary foreign worker program to bringing in high skilled and skilled trades workers on a temporary basis to fill immediate skills and labour shortages, rather than to provide low-wage labour to businesses for extended periods.
    • The province working with the federal government in designing the Expression of Interest (EOI) model of immigration which the federal government has recently announced that it intends to implement. This model, which is currently in use in New Zealand, adds a preliminary application phase whereby those seeking to immigrate to Canada submit an EOI that contains their personal information to the Canadian government, and immigration authorities invite the most promising EOI applicants to submit a full application along with proof of qualifications.
    • To enable the government of Ontario to play a bigger role in immigration selection, codifying the province’s immigration strategy and regulations through legislation. The report suggests that a provincial governing framework for immigration might become a prerequisite for the the federal government agreeing to allow provinces to have a bigger role in the immigration selection process.

The report is likely to be influential because of Ontario’s importance to Canada, as the country’s most populous province and the destination of over 35 percent of Canada’s immigrants.