Help wanted: Canada seeking (some) skilled labor

Like to drive five screens from your Macbook? Canada is looking for a few interactive media developers. Software engineers?--not so much. Photo: Julien Meddah, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Like to drive five screens from your Macbook? Canada is looking for a few interactive media developers. Software engineers?–not so much. Photo: Julien Meddah, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Need work? Got skills? Willing to try life in Canada?

Well, Canada’s federal government has opened a skilled labor program for  “…to 24 eligible occupations, in addition to applicants with a qualifying job offer or those applying under the PhD stream“.

According to this government website Federal Skilled Workers

are chosen as permanent residents based on their ability to settle in Canada and take part in our economy. We assess them on their:

* English and/or French skills,

* education,

* work experience, and

* other factors that have been shown to help them prosper in Canada.

Categories of skills sought include: many types of engineers, land surveyors, various medical specialists and industrial technicians or mechanics. Computer engineers, programmers and “interactive media developers” are wanted, but not software engineers or designers. For all that it’s a long long list, it’s still not one that includes most unemployed workers.

There is some debate within Canada as to whether a skilled labor shortage exists or not. The headline of this  April 11 Canadian Press story called evidence for such a gap “skimpy and selective”. The article quoted critics who wondered if such programs might suppress wages for Canadians who already have the targeted skills, or would be happy to acquire them.

The question of labor shortages come amidst headlines back in early April over a program that replaced employed Canadians with imported temporary foreign workers at Canada’s largest bank. (Rules for foreign temporary workers are reportedly being tightened in response to that incident, which left some bank officials and even the Prime Minister clarifying their positions in the wake of negative public reaction.)

Meanwhile, this May 7th article from Canada.com titled “How Canada is winning the race in recruiting skilled immigrants while the U.S. lags behind” describes one instance of an Atlanta-area mechanic, Paul Thomas, who liked what he heard and saw:

The recruiter sent Thomas an e-mail loaded with video links describing the company, the owner’s charity projects and the city of Prince George, dubbed the “Northern Capital” of British Columbia. “My wife and I were excited,” Thomas, 45, said. “Auto mechanics don’t get approached by recruiters, so it was sort of nice being catered to.”

The dealership, specializing in heavy-duty trucks, paid for him to visit the area. He was hired last March under a skilled worker program and in a month had a work permit. With a contract paying up to $100,000 a year and government-provided health care, a job in Canada was like “I scratched a lottery ticket,” he said.

According to this 2010 New York Times article on Canada’s selective hunt for new citizens:

…there is no such thing in Canada as an anti-immigrant politician. Few nations take more immigrants per capita, and perhaps none with less fuss.

In the case of this particular program, if you have the skills, the interest and are willing to relocate, it would be prudent to proceed quickly. The program is capped at just 5,000 applicants between now and April 30 2014, and will only take 300 in each priority occupation.

And now a question for both Canadians and Americans: do you think attracting immigrants with specific skills a good strategy for employers and national economies? Or is it better (preferable?) to train existing citizens and fill sector gaps by hiring from within?

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2 Comments on “Help wanted: Canada seeking (some) skilled labor”

  1. The Original Larry says:

    It is always better to help your own first. The question is, do they want that help?

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  2. Hank says:

    I don’t see “radio station broadcasting tower maintenance” on the list of wanted skills! (Pardon me, Lucy, I don’t mean to hijack your more serious discussion of this important issue, but I couldn’t resist)

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