Canada’s plan for more immigrants aims to boost the workforce, but experts say they will need support

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A plan to welcome record numbers of immigrants to Canada includes bringing in needed workers, but experts and employers say more could be done to help newcomers arrive and thrive in their new homes.

The federal government wants to see 1.45 million new permanent residents in Canada over the next three years, including 500,000 people in 2025.

The push comes as Canada faces a labor shortage.

“If we don’t have immigration, our workforce won’t grow,” said Anil Verma, emeritus professor of industrial relations and human resource management at the University of Washington’s Rotman School of Management. Toronto.

In its fall economic statement, Ottawa stated that “immigration is central to our identity as Canadians, as well as being a key driver of Canada’s economic growth.” (Olivier Hyland/CBC)

According to the government’s fall economic statement, “immigration is central to our identity as Canadians, while being a key driver of Canada’s economic growth.”

Ottawa believes increased immigration will help meet labor needs in a country with an aging population and record numbers of people planning for retirement.

Ottawa could be ‘bolder’

The federal government is aiming for about 60% of newcomers to be in the economic class — people coming to Canada for their job skills as well as accompanying family members — by 2025.

Dennis Darby, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), said members of his trade association are “very grateful” for what the government is doing.

“That’s how we’re going to attract the next generation of people we need.”

A view of part of Toronto’s financial district is seen in a file photo from last December. The Business Council of Canada, an advocacy group that represents dozens of leaders in a range of industries, says Ottawa could have set “bolder” immigration targets than it announced. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

The Business Council of Canada (BCC), an advocacy group that represents business leaders from various sectors, also supports the approach, but believes Ottawa could be “bolder” in its recruiting targets.

“From a directional perspective, we are pleased with the direction the government is taking,” said Trevor Neiman, policy director and council counsel.

The BCC and the CME are both in favor of seeing even more workers joining the country and the economy.

Regardless of the size of this cohort, however, Verma points out that the process of moving to another country to start a new life — and find a job — doesn’t happen overnight.

This means that the full impact of these new workers on the labor market will not be felt immediately.

“The calculations for filling vacancies are very delicate, and I think that should not be the basis of long-term immigration policy,” Verma said, noting that economic growth and nation-building were more relevant factors.

“A bumpy ride”

Samitaa Chahal knows how difficult the journey to a new life in Canada can be.

She left India and landed in Ontario just two weeks before the pandemic shut everything down in March 2020.

Chahal found herself alone and tried to make sense of the chaos. This included finding a job in a disrupted world.

Samitaa Chahal moved to Canada just before the pandemic closed borders and business as usual. She persevered, finding a job at a difficult time and learning the vagaries of the national labor market. (Submitted by Samitaa Chahal)

Although she has a background in marketing and communications, her first job here was in a long-term care home.

Six months later, she found another job and has since worked as an instructional designer in learning and development, a position she chose over a competing job offer.

Chahal remembers the pride she felt in being able to “choose what I want to do and not [from] what life has in store for me.”

“It’s been a bumpy ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said.

Many in-demand skills

Federal government says its immigration plan will help Canadian businesses find needed people in key sectors, including health care, construction trades, manufacturing and science, technology, education and math (STEM).

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said targeted draws will be used next year to bring candidates with the most in-demand skills to specific regions where they are needed. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said targeted draws will be used next year to bring candidates with the most in-demand skills to specific regions where they are needed.

The minister told Reuters that the focus will be on recruiting doctors and nurses, in the provinces who will ensure that the credentials of these newcomers are recognized quickly.

As for the manufacturing sector, CME’s Darby said there is strong demand for skilled and general labor, with more than 80,000 vacancies across Canada.

More competition for people

The BCC says its members – which include banks, mining companies and other large employers – have signaled that immigration is key to finding needed staff.

The council conducted a survey during the first quarter of the year which collected responses from 80 of its 170 members. Respondents included CEOs and other high-ranking professionals.

Ottawa says its immigration plan will help Canadian businesses find people for key sectors such as health care, construction trades and manufacturing. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Two-thirds of respondents said they recruited staff directly through immigration, while the BCC said the rest hired immigrants who already lived here.

Neiman said Canada has benefited greatly from immigration for years and it remains one of Ottawa’s most powerful tools to address labor shortages.

But he said the country now faces more intense competition for people as other countries also face labor shortages.

“Canada really needs to step up their game in order to maintain their advantage,” he said.

Ottawa seems to be listening: In its fall economic statement, the government announced that it would allocate $50 million in additional funding to deal with current backlogs and other issues impeding rapid entry newcomers to Canada.

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Asked about the competition the country faces for talent, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said it could “not speculate” on what other countries are doing to attract newcomers.

“The level of immigration to Canada is a policy choice that must balance the benefits of immigration with the costs of delivering the program and the capacity of our infrastructure,” the department said in an email.

Challenges after arrival

Sweta Regmi, founder and CEO of Teachndo Career Consultancy in Sudbury, Ontario, finds that many newcomers lack support to navigate the Canadian job market.

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“The gap … is in teaching you how to look for a job,” said Regmi, a certified career and resume strategist, who sees a lingering problem she also faced during her own immigration journey there. two decades old.

There are programs that provide assistance to people, but Regmi said they are not always well suited to the needs of incoming job seekers.

Chahal found this same process to be a particular challenge as she worked to learn the quirks of a labor market that she found more rigid in its hiring practices compared to India.

A cluster of condo towers are seen on a foggy day in downtown Toronto on Thursday. Every newcomer to Canada needs a place to live. Finding affordable housing is a growing challenge in the country. (Carlos Osorio/CBC)

The availability of affordable housing is an issue that has taken over domestic politics across Canada lately, but it is equally important for people moving to a new country.

Fraser, the immigration minister, told Reuters that Canada will focus on bringing in more skilled construction workers to help build new housing and screening newcomers for areas with the “capacity of absorption” to welcome them.

IRCC said that “adequate investment in settlement, housing and public services is critical not only for the long-term success of newcomers, but also to ensure that we provide the same level of services to all Canadians. “.

Mikal Skuterud, professor of economics at the University of Waterloo, told CBC The House it is “relatively easy” for the government to quickly increase the number of new arrivals compared to its ability to quickly increase the stock of available housing.

Skuterud expects the relative price of housing in the regions to be a factor in which many people decide to live.

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