Despite a population jump of 58,2033 people in Q4 2022, labour shortages continue to be a major obstacle to business' economic success. Accounting for nearly 100 per cent of labour force growth nationally, immigration represents a solution to this challenge.
The Alberta Advantage Immigration Programs (AAIP) are essential to attracting talent. However, restrictive eligibility requirements, foreign credential recognition issues, the costs of navigating the system, and program awareness all pose obstacles to newcomers and businesses. Recognizing this, refinements are needed to ensure Alberta’s immigration programs support the growth of the economy today and tomorrow.
Recognizing that immigration can alleviate labour shortages, the Government of Canada is seeking to welcome over 700,000 economic immigrants by 2024. However, federal immigration systems are imperfect. For instance, fewer than one-quarter of businesses believe federal systems serve their needs well, citing complex rules, application processing delays, and the costs associated with navigating the system. Furthermore, federal systems favour highly skilled workers, leaving newcomers seeking lower-wage occupations – such as temporary foreign workers – reliant on provincial immigration programs.
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- Collaborate with federal counterparts to ensure Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program supports businesses labour needs. This includes:
- Working with Economic and Social Development Canada to ensure the cost of a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) does not pose an obstacle to businesses interested in leveraging temporary foreign workers. This could include developing a fee-cap based on a business’ size or creating a flat-rate option for employers conducting more than one LMIA.
- Working with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to increase provincial nomination limits to be representative of the scale of Alberta’s labour shortage.
- Expand eligibility to the Alberta Opportunity Stream by:
- Reducing the required work experience to a minimum of six months full-time work experience in their current occupation in Alberta within the last 12 months, or a minimum of 18 months full-time work experience in their current occupation in Canada or abroad within the last 30 months at the time of their application.
- Allowing post-graduation work permit holders to apply to occupations unrelated to their field of study.
- Ensuring language competency requirements are reflective of occupational needs, recognizing newcomers will continue improving language skills through employment.
- Updating the list of ineligible occupations frequently to ensure accuracy and timeliness relative to Alberta’s evolving labour market needs.
- Alleviate barriers to participation in the Rural Renewal Stream (RRS) by setting ambitious targets for the number of applications, complemented by a public awareness campaign that increases visibility of the RRS amongst eligible municipalities and their businesses communities.
- Address systemic issues surrounding foreign credential recognition by:
- Convening Alberta’s professional associations and colleges to identify and reduce barriers regarding the testing and administration of Canadian credential equivalencies, leveraging the Fairness for Newcomers Office.
- Expanding the remit of the International Qualifications Assessment Service to include the evaluation and certification of the skills and knowledge newcomers have acquired through work and life experiences, leveraging funding available through the federal Foreign Credential Recognition Program.