Speaking in Calgary on 10 April 2012, Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced plans to create a new category of immigration under the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program. The category, which is to be called the FSW Skilled Trades program, has been crafted as a way to streamline the immigration process for tradespersons with critical skills that are acutely needed in Canada.
Through this new stream of immigration, the current Canadian administration hopes to address growing labour shortages in industries such as construction and natural resources. It is argued that the present structure of the FSW application process is not equipped to fairly assess applicants with specialties in such fields.
At present, prospective immigrants to the FSW are only eligible if they meet the following criteria:
• They have received a permanent offer of Arranged Employment from a Canadian employer in a skilled trade;
• They have at least one year of full-time work experience in a targeted profession, or;
• They are enrolled or recently graduated from a Canadian PhD program
Most skilled tradespersons fall into the second category, although some receive offers of employment before applying. All applicants are assessed on a 100-point grid, on which they must score at least 67 points to be considered qualified for the program. Some important criteria on the grid, such as years of higher education, have customarily favored professionals at the expense of tradepersons As such, only 3 percent of those currently admitted under the FSW are practitioners of skilled trades.
Minister Kenney and his colleagues argue that such bias is antiquated and does not address the current needs of the Canadian labour market. “Our government recognizes that our country faces a critical shortage in certain skilled trades,” said Kenney. “Attracting skilled tradespeople is important for maintaining Canada’s momentum in the global economy”.
Provinces, especially those rich in natural resources, are experiencing labour shortages numbering in the tens of thousands. Most of these shortages are in fields that are considered ‘hands-on’ skilled work, as opposed to more traditional ‘office’ jobs. Some Provincial Nominee Programs, in which provinces are allowed to handpick immigrants to best suit their unique needs, have had limited success in bringing in tradespersons in targeted industries. However, the FSW Skilled Trades category will see such focus on a much larger scale.
“This new category has the potential to benefit many who have seen themselves shut out of the Canadian immigration process, despite possessing critical skills,” says Attorney David Cohen. “I anticipate that this will be a very popular option for immigration”.
The FSW Skilled Trades category has not yet been implemented. Further details are expected to be released in upcoming months. The category itself is expected to become operational sometime later in 2012.