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September 5, 2007

Labour Shortage

Canada’s immigration policy hurts construction industry

Refusal to review points systems causing Canada to lag in attracting skills

The continued refusal by Canadian immigration to review its points system is leaving the country and the construction industry lagging behind in the search for skilled labour, says a Canadian Construction Association official.

“We are losing out in the international search for the best skilled workers out there,” says Jeff Morrison, CCA government relations and public affairs director. “We need to be more proactive in looking for labour talent.”

Australia has doubled its immigrant builders and engineer numbers in the 2005-2006 year. The country’s ‘Migration Programme’ brought in 142,930 foreign-born people, of which, 97,340 were skilled workers. Immigrant builders and engineers reached 2,684 in Western Australia alone, up from the 1,420 the year before.

“Australia uses its embassies and consulates to be proactive identifiers of skilled labour abroad, attending labour shows for instance,” explains Morrison. “Canadian embassies should be looking to be more proactive as well.”

Canada needs to become more aggressive and open in its international recruitment effort because countries worldwide are “ramping up” efforts as well, notes Morrison.

The CCA recently asked Diane Finley, Canada’s citizenship and immigration minister, to review the current points used to assess applicants who wish to come to Canada.

Finley states, in a letter to the CCA, that the federal government “recognize there are growing skill shortage in the domestic construction sector” and agrees immigration can help address shortage in the domestic labour supply. However, a launch of a review of the points system would be “premature” at this time, added Finley.

“It would be beneficial to wait until a more complete picture can be drawn around the results of implementing a human capital model for skilled worker selection,” says Finley.

Despite the recent “positive steps” in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and discussions between Canada and Mexico, concerning seasonal workers, more reform is needed in the immigration admittance stream, says Morrison.

“The issue is the points system puts more of an emphasis on post-secondary education than usable, tangible skills,” explains Morrison. “There are no more studies which need to be done.”

Increased apprenticeship and training is very helpful but immigration is needed to fill the demand, says Morrison.

The Canadian construction industry is not just competing against similar industries across the globe, he adds.

“Within Canada we are competing against different sectors,” notes Morrison. “We are all competing for the same workers in the same labour pool.”

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