Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced on Monday a new Skilled Trades Stream program for immigrants.
The emphasis will be on reducing the shortage of skilled workers. The list of eligible professions is expected to include such trades as pipe-fitters, mechanics, transportation jobs and electricians. The applications for the program will be accepted as of January 2, 2013. In the beginning, to avoid backlogs, a maximum of 3,000 applications will be accepted per year.
Launching the new category, Minister Kenney said, “This is about having an immigration system that works for Canada, works for our economy, works for newcomers [and] fuels our long-term growth and prosperity.” The new category was developed to address concerns that the federal skilled workers program did not cover trade workers adequately. It will allow those who fulfill certain criteria to complete the immigration process faster.
The applicants for the program will need to comply with these criteria:
- Have a job offer in Canada.
- Have basic proficiency in French or English, but not at the level required by the skilled worker points system.
- Prove that they have recently worked in the trade and have a minimum of two years’ experience.
- Show that their occupation falls within the federal trade classification system.
Professional associations, such as the Canadian Construction Association, welcomed the announcement. “The new program ensures greater consideration is given to the needs of industry when processing eligible immigration applications,” association president Michael Atkinson said.
Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business also supports the program: “With the shortage of qualified labour in many parts of Canada growing once again, the launch of the Skilled Trades immigration stream is very welcome news.”
For future immigrants, this is a new program which, since it does not have a backlog of applications, will be faster and more responsive. Also, having slightly lower language thresholds, program will be more adequate for trade workers than the Federal Skilled Worker Program, allowing these applicants to qualify more easily.
Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants welcomes this expansion of the Federal Skilled Workers Program. “The stream makes it easier for those who would not qualify under the current point system (where 67 pts are needed) because of level of language fluency required and education levels and the points given for each of these. Service support and intervention may still be needed (for acculturation and integration issues) and will be available.”
Regarding the effects to the immigration community, Douglas explains: ”The program does not necessarily benefit immigrants already here. In Ontario, our Provincial Nominee program tends to privilege those who are high skilled or international students. What this new stream does is open up the door for many who would otherwise not qualify to come through the skilled workers’ class.”
Ratna Omidvar, president of Maytree foundation, believes the new immigration stream is welcome and long overdue. “The program’s focus on skills and experience, rather than just on formal education, is practical and recognizes the reality of how tradespeople often gain their training and expertise.”
Omidvar adds that we need to be careful about occupation lists because projecting labour needs can be challenging – what is needed now might not be what is needed in the future. “ We need an immigration system that values workers who can adapt and change with the labour market. While we look forward to welcoming more skilled tradespeople through this program in the future, employers need to remember that we have highly skilled and experienced tradespeople already living in Canada, including immigrants who might have come to Canada as family members or refugees. These skilled tradespeople are here, now, and are ready to work.”