Canada's plans for more immigrants aim to boost the workforce, but experts say they will need support

Ottawa hopes increased immigration can help businesses find the people they need

Plans to welcome large numbers of immigrants to Canada include bringing in needed workers, but experts and employers say more can be done to help new arrivals 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 by 2025.

The boost comes as Canada is facing a labor shortage.

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

According to the government's fall economic statement, "Immigration is at the core of our identity as Canadians, while also being a key driver of Canadian economic growth."

Ottawa believes increased immigration will help meet the workforce needs in a country with an aging population and a record number of people planning to retire.

Ottawa could be 'bolder'

The federal government targets about 60 percent of new arrivals to be in economy class — people who come to Canada for their job skills as well as family members accompanying them — by 2025.

Dennis Darby, president and chief executive of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada (CME), said members of his trade association are "very grateful" for what the government is doing.

"That's how we get the next generation of people we need."

The Business Council of Canada (BCC), an advocacy group representing business leaders across a range of industries, also supports the approach, but believes Ottawa could be "bolder" in its recruiting goals.

"Immediately, we're excited about where the government is going," said Trevor Neiman, the council's director of policy and legal counsel.

Both BCC and CME support saw more workers join the country and economy.

No matter how large the group, however, Verma points out that the process of moving to another country to start a new life — and get a job — doesn't happen overnight.

That means the full impact of these incoming workers on the labor market will not materialize immediately.

"The math in filling job vacancies is very complicated, and I don't think it should be the basis for long-term immigration policies," Verma said, pointing to economic growth and nation-building as more relevant factors.

'bumpy ride'

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

He left India and landed in Ontario just two weeks before the all-deadly pandemic in March 2020.

Chahal finds himself alone and tries to understand the mess. That includes finding work in an upside-down world.

Despite having a marketing and communications background, her first job here was in a nursing home.

Six months later, he found another job, and has since moved to a position as an instructional designer in the area of ​​learning and development — a job he's chosen over rival job offers.

Chahal recalled the pride he felt at being able to "choose what I want to do and not [of] what life gives me."

"It's been a bumpy ride, but I wouldn't have done it any other way," he said.

Many skills required

The federal government says its immigration plan will help Canadian businesses find the people they need in key sectors, including in healthcare, the building trade, manufacturing, and science, technology, education and math (STEM).

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the targeted sweepstakes would be used next year to bring applicants with the most in-demand skills to specific areas where they are needed.

The minister told Reuters that the main focus was on recruiting doctors and nurses, in the province who would work to ensure the credentials of these new arrivals were recognized quickly.

In terms of the manufacturing sector, CME's Darby said there is high demand for skilled and general labor, with more than 80,000 unfilled positions across Canada.

More competition for people

The BCC said its members - which include banks, mining companies and other big businessmen - had signaled immigration was key to finding the needed personnel.

The board conducted a survey in the first quarter of this year that drew responses from 80 of its 170 members. Respondents included CEOs and other high-level business professionals.

Two-thirds of respondents said they recruited staff directly through immigration, while the BCC said the remainder employed immigrants who were already living here.

Neiman said Canada has benefited greatly from immigration over the years and remains one of Ottawa's strongest tools for tackling labor shortages.

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

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

"The rate of immigration to Canada is a policy choice that needs to balance the benefits of immigration against the costs of implementing our programs and our infrastructure capacity," the department said in an email.

Challenge after arriving

Sweta Regmi, founder and CEO of Teachndo Career Consultancy in Sudbury, Ontario, sees many newcomers who are under-supported navigating the Canadian job market.

“The gap… in teaching you how to do a job search,” says Regmi, a certified career and resume strategist, who looks at the persistent problems she also faced during her own immigration journey two decades ago.

There are programs that provide assistance to the community, but according to Regmi it is not always in accordance with the needs of incoming job seekers.

Chahal found the same process to be a particular challenge as he worked to learn customs in the job market which he found to be more rigid in his hiring practices compared to India. This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS.

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