Immigrants needed to ease Saskatchewan’s labour pains - New Canadian Media
By 2029, Saskatchewan will likely have 12,300 more jobs than the domestic labour force can fill. To address the critical labour shortage, the provincial government has announced a new pilot immigration program. (dotshock/Canva)

Immigrants needed to ease Saskatchewan’s labour pains

A new immigration program, developed in Saskatchewan for Saskatchewan, will provide employers with greater access to international options for the recruitment of foreign workers.

Located approximately 140 kilometres east of Saskatoon, the BHP Jansen Project in Saskatchewan is taking shape to be the largest potash-producing mine in the world.

The project is expected to create around 3,500 jobs annually during construction plus more than 600 jobs at the mine site and corporate office in Saskatoon.

In Yorkton, one of the fastest-growing cities in Saskatchewan, dozens of local businesses have “We are hiring” signs posted on their windows and parking lots. 

“In early November, Canadian Tire, Starbucks, SaskTel, The Brick, Walmart, Mary Browns, Omega Auto Parts, Parkland College and many others had similar signs on their buildings or in their parking lots, telling locals about available jobs,” reported Sasktoday.ca

Across the prairie province known as the ‘Bread Basket of Canada’, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council predicts that by 2029, Saskatchewan will have 12,300 more jobs than the domestic labour force can fill. 

“Saskatchewan’s agriculture sector has limited access to foreign workers and the lowest reliance on this labour source: only 1.6% of the province’s agricultural workforce is foreign workers, compared to 17% across the entire Canadian agricultural sector workforce,” the council said in its forecast 2029 report.

Critical shortage of workers

Jim Bence, president and CEO of Hospitality Saskatchewan said that his industry has thousands of vacancies including almost 600 for cooks and kitchen staff.

Saying it’s a crisis or an acute problem, will be an understatement, Bence told NCM.

To address the critical shortage of workers in Saskatchewan, the provincial government last week announced a new pilot under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) to address hard-to-fill positions in the province.

The ‘Hard-To-Fill Skills Pilot’ will enable Saskatchewan employers to recruit workers through overseas missions, or other international recruitment activities, into select jobs that have significant recruitment challenges, the government said.

The pilot gives employers the ability to recruit in these occupations to fill critical vacancies that can’t be filled by domestic labour or other Federal immigration programs and enables the workers to become permanent residents faster,” said Robin Speer, a spokesperson for the Government of Saskatchewan.

“The majority of the occupations under the pilot were not eligible under the SINP or any immigration program before. Five of the eligible occupations previously required the worker to work in Saskatchewan for at least six months before they could apply to the SINP and start the permanent immigration process,” he said in a written response to questions from NCM.

Speer said the Hard-To-Fill Skills (HFS) Pilot includes 23 occupations in the following sectors: Health, Hospitality, Agriculture Value Added, Primary Agriculture, Forestry, Sales and Service, Logistics and Transportation, Residential and Commercial Construction and Metal and Agriculture Machinery Manufacturing.

“In second quarter of 2021, there were 685 job vacancies for construction trades helpers and labourers, up 149% from the same quarter in 2019 (pre-pandemic base), Other occupations with a high number of vacancies that have increased over the same period are heavy equipment operators (except crane), transport truck drivers, food and beverage servers, material handlers, janitors, caretakers and building superintendents, and home support workers and housekeepers,” said Speer.

“We anticipate demand will increase for many of these occupations as major economic projects continue to come on stream in the forestry, mining, manufacturing, and agri-value sectors…Completion of phase one of the BHP Jansen mine alone will alone create 3,500 construction jobs.”

Bence from Hospitality Saskatchewan described the pilot program as “a much needed timely solution.”

Post-COVID immigration 

“It’s a great move to attract immigrant talent and provides a quicker pathway to residency,” he said.

“While we always work hard to exhaust every opportunity to hire locally, we have to be creative to ensure we have the right labour supply to help our business and communities grow and thrive in Saskatchewan, something this very unique program will be especially helpful with post-COVID.”

“This new Hard-To-Fill Skills Pilot – developed in Saskatchewan for Saskatchewan – is progress on our autonomy discussions with the federal government and is going to help provide employers with greater access to international options to recruit workers,” said the province’s Immigration and Career Training Minister Jeremy Harrison, in a statement.

The pilot is scheduled to launch this month.

To be eligible, applicants to the Hard-To-Fill Skills Pilot must: 

  • Have a full-time, permanent offer of employment and SINP job approval letter for an eligible occupation from a registered Saskatchewan employer; 
  • Meet a minimum Canadian Official Language proficiency level; and
  • Meet the minimum educational and work experience requirements, which include having at least one year of work experience in the same occupation as the job offer or six-month work experience in that job in Saskatchewan.

The employers in the pilot program must demonstrate they have made extensive efforts to hire domestically prior to utilizing the pilot for recruitment, demonstrate the need and benefit for their business, and fulfill requirements related to providing settlement support for the workers.

For more information on the initiative and eligibility criteria, contact 1-833-613-0485 or immigration@gov.sk.ca.

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About the author

Business Development Advisor - A multiple-award winning journalist, Fabian Dawson is an internationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and media expert. His work over the last four decades spans the globe and he also serves as a consultant/strategic advisor to a variety of international companies. As deputy editor-in-chief of The Province, part of the Postmedia chain, Dawson led initiatives within a special publications group to provide directed content for a variety of organisations. He was named the 2019 recipient of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award at Jack Webster Awards. Dawson has been invited by the governments of India, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and the United States to act as a media observer/advisor on a variety of Asian-Canada issues. Dawson, now operates FD Media, which specializes in harnessing editorial assets to revenue generating opportunities.

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