Friday, September 23, 2016

Parliamentary Committee Recommends 21 Changes to Temporary Foreign Worker Program

English: The main doorway into the chamber of ...
English: The main doorway into the chamber of the House of Commons of Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Government Ministers set to respond to Committee report, with major changes to current regulations expected

A House of Commons committee tasked with reviewing Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) has made a wide range of recommendations for changes to the program, including easier pathways to permanent residence for foreign workers and simpler ways for businesses to respond to labour market needs.
The committee also calls for the elimination of a rule that ties a foreign worker’s work permit to a specific employer, based on testimony that this creates a power relationship that is open to abuse. Furthermore, under these recommendations, employers with a track record of using the program appropriately would then be placed into a ‘Trusted Employer Program’ whereby their applications for Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) would be fast-tracked.
The report also supports ending the rule that forces certain workers to leave Canada after four years.
Within hours of the report having been published, the Minister of Immigration, John McCallum, and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, MaryAnn Mihychuk, announced that they would respond to the recommendations within the legislated timeframe of 120 days. Given that the Committee was dominated by Liberal members and that the Liberal Party holds a majority within the House of Commons, the long-awaited report is expected to guide upcoming changes to the TFWP that have been promised by the government since it took office last November. The most recent major changes to the TFWP were introduced by the previous Conservative government in June, 2014.

Recommended changes to the TFWP

Glossary of terms:
  • Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (‘The Committee’) – The House of Commons Committee that submitted the report and the list of recommendations.
  • ESCD – Employment and Social Development Canada, the government department responsible for social programs and the labour market at the federal level.
  • LMIA – Labour Marker Impact Assessment, a document that an employer in Canada may need before hiring a foreign worker.
  • IRCC – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the government department overseeing immigration to Canada.
  • TFWP – Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Labour Market Impact Assessment Application fee
The Committee heard that the $1,000 LMIA application fee made it difficult for certain businesses, in particular small businesses, to remain competitive. For families needing to hire caregivers, the fee has been financially burdensome. Accordingly, the Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC and IRCC take immediate steps to extend work permits for caregivers in the low-wage stream from one to two years.
Processing and timelines regarding LMIA applications
The Committee agreed that there is a need to streamline and standardize the LMIA application process. In particular, the Committee heard that the length of time it takes to process LMIA applications affects companies’ productivity, and has an impact on the temporary foreign workers themselves whose work permit renewals are dependent upon a positive LMIA. The Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC review the LMIA application process, with a view to increasing speed and efficiency; and that such a review take into consideration the National Occupational Classification (NOC) Codes as well as the adequate allocation of resources towards training and meeting service standards.
  2. That ESDC implement a Trusted Employer Program with the objective of reducing LMIA processing timelines for employers who have demonstrated trustworthiness in their use of the TFWP.
  3. That ESDC review the policy with respect to foreign faculty members currently employed or seeking employment with a recognized Canadian academic institution, whose employment is currently dependent upon a LMIA, with a view to providing exemptions or accommodations for this class of foreign nationals.
  4. That the TFWP permit minor modifications to contracts between employers and employees with regards to the nature of the work and increases in wages if both parties consent, the changes do not disadvantage the worker, and ESDC is adequately informed of any changes in short order. The changes must not violate the spirit of the job description.
TFWP streams
Currently, the TFWP comprises various streams, each with its own specific requirements. Witnesses appearing before the Committee suggested that the current way in which the TFWP is structured needs to be reformed as current stream-specific requirements do not fully address the individual needs of various industries. The Committee acknowledges that the current program streams may not fully reflect Canadian labour market needs and recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC appropriately restructure the TFWP such that it achieves better overall economic and social benefit for Canadians and program participants. That ESDC re-establish the TFWP into more specific program areas and streams that adequately reflect the realities of labour market needs in Canada.
  2. That IRCC study the impacts of expanding the definition of primary agriculture as found in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
  3. That ESDC and IRCC seek to review and improve mechanisms in which migrant workers are brought into Canada to fill both temporary and permanent positions, preventing the use of the TFWP to satisfy permanent labour needs.
Transition Plans
Currently, employers seeking to hire high-wage workers must submit transition plans along with their LMIA application to ensure that they are taking steps to reduce their reliance on foreign workers over time. High-wage workers are those earning above the median hourly wage for a given occupation in specified region. Transition plans are designed to ensure that employers seeking foreign workers are fulfilling the purpose of the program.
The majority of witnesses who appeared before the Committee to talk about the high-wage stream shared the view that the requirement for a Transition Plan may not be realistic when there is a proven labour shortage of high-skilled workers that cannot be addressed domestically in the short-term. Other stakeholders support abolishing Transition Plans altogether. The Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC provide an exemption on the Transition Plan requirement for five percent of the business’ workforce that consists of high-wage temporary foreign workers.
  2. That ESDC work to implement measures to ensure appropriate training and education resources are allocated in those fields most likely to present labour and skills shortages. Also, that appropriate apprenticeship targets be included as a requirement of the Transition Plan for employers to ensure they meet their recruitment and training obligations for Canadians.
  3. That ESDC, businesses, and stakeholders continue to monitor labour market needs as to ensure skills, training, and educational output match Canada’s current and future employment needs such that our reliance on foreign labour diminishes, and invest in better collection and retention of labour market information in Canada to adequately assess labour market needs.
Cap on the proportion of the workforce that consists of low-wage temporary foreign workers
Currently, employers with 10 or more employees applying for a new LMIA are subject to a cap of 10 percent on the proportion of their workforce that can consist of low-wage temporary foreign workers. The introduction of this cap has negatively affected some businesses’ production levels, and some industry-specific exemptions may be contemplated. The Committee also recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC ensure the cap on the percentage of temporary foreign workers a business can employ at a given time, be set at a minimum of 20 percent, and further review sector and geographic considerations.
Certain low-wage positions in the Accommodation, Food Services and Retail Trade sectors
Currently, LMIAs with respect to certain low-wage positions in regions with a six percent or higher unemployment rate will not be processed. However, witnesses told the Committee that available labour market data is very high-level and not suited to determining labour market conditions in smaller communities situated within the broader geographic region. The Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC take immediate steps to improve the collection of labour market data and review the geographic zones used for determining unemployment rates, with a view to aligning the labour market conditions of more localized economies with the requirements of the TFWP.
Employer-specific work permits
Temporary foreign workers employed in the low-wage stream and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP, part of the TFWP) have consistently stated that employer-specific work permits tying workers to one employer lead to a power imbalance that may lead to abuse. The Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC take immediate steps to eliminate the requirement for an employer-specific work permit; provided that it implement appropriate measures to ensure temporary foreign labour is only utilized within the existing provisions of the LMIA process, including sector and geographic restrictions.
  2. That IRCC provide multiple entry work visas for temporary foreign workers employed in seasonal work, with the objective of allowing these individuals greater mobility during off-seasons; that when a work visa is extended, the multiple 32 entry visa must also be extended so workers can continue to enter and leave Canada.
Pathways to permanent residence for all migrant workers
The Committee acknowledges that all migrant workers, especially those that are filling long-term labour needs and are fully integrated into Canadian society, should enjoy greater pathways to permanent residence. Therefore, the Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That IRCC review the current pathways to permanent residence for all temporary foreign workers, with a view to facilitating access to permanent residence for migrant workers who have integrated into Canadian society and are filling a permanent labour market need. That IRCC allocate adequate resources to allow for the timely processing of permanent residence applications for those migrant workers that are hired under the TFWP.
  2. That IRCC work with provinces, territories and other government departments to increase information sharing that will create more harmonization with immigration and nominee programs to function in collaboration with one another. That these efforts aim to reduce duplication of work benefiting both the government and applicants.
  3. That IRCC amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to remove the relevant provisions with respect to the “cumulative duration” rule, which currently makes certain workers ineligible for new work permits if they have been working in Canada for four years and bans them from applying for a new one for an additional four years.
  4. That IRCC reform the Express Entry immigration selection system to allow for fixed-term employment contracts to be allocated the same number of points as permanent work contracts, where there is a strong likelihood of continued employment.
Monitoring and enforcement
The Committee acknowledged that program monitoring and enforcement remains an issue, despite recent steps towards improvement. The Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, review current monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, with the objective of addressing gaps in employer compliance and the protection of migrant workers’ rights. In addition, an effort shall be made to move away from a complaint-driven model of program enforcement. The review shall take into consideration the following specific measures:
    • increasing resource and information sharing with provinces and territories;
    • increasing the frequency of on-site inspections and ensuring that they be conducted while temporary foreign labour is being used;
    • creating an accreditation system for recruiters, which requires compliance with the TFWP rules and from which employers could exclusively select;
    • establishing a dispute resolution mechanism for migrant workers when conflict with an employer arises;
    • ensuring, through on-site inspections, that labour laws and regulations are properly enforced where migrant workers operate; and
    • guaranteeing that any workplace injuries that require immediate attention be granted emergency care where deemed necessary in Canada.
  2. That ESDC, in collaboration with stakeholders, establish measures to ensure that incoming migrant workers and their employers are informed of their rights and responsibilities under the TFWP, including dispute resolution and abuse reporting procedures, as well as information on wages, benefits, accommodations and working conditions; and that the Department undertake best efforts to provide this information in the language of preference of the migrant worker.
The next steps
“The Committee has undertaken a major project and returned with some welcome recommendations that would benefit Canadian workers, foreign workers, and businesses alike. Representatives from each stakeholder group have been consulted and, consequently, the report is thorough,” says Attorney David Cohen.
“Although some of the recommendations may be tweaked or shelved, I would expect many, if not most, of these recommendations to become part of the program regulations in one form or another. With a program that is likely to undergo significant changes over the coming months — and as businesses and workers figure out exactly what may be required of them before and after the program is modified — I would encourage stakeholders to consult an expert on Canadian work permits to ensure a smooth hiring process.”

Express Entry Breaking News: CRS Requirement Decreases yet Again in Latest Draw as Number of Invitations to Apply Increases September 21, 2016

Internal development of Canada's internal bord...
Internal development of Canada's internal borders, from the formation of the dominion to the present. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In a development that has been welcomed by candidates for Canadian immigration through the Express Entry selection system, the latest draw has seen a substantial increase in the number of candidates invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence. This increase means that the number ofComprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points required in order for a candidate to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) has decreased for the second draw in a row.
A total of 1,288 candidates in the Express Entry pool with 483 or more CRS points received an ITA in the September 21 draw. Candidates who have been issued an ITA are now in a position to submit an application for Canadian permanent residence. Accompanying family members, including spouses or common-law partners, as well as dependent children, may also come to Canada along with the principal applicant. The government of Canada aims to process applications within six months.
Just four weeks ago, the CRS point requirement was 538 and only 750 candidates were invited to apply. The move towards larger draws, and a corresponding decrease in the CRS point requirement, likely reflects a desire on the part of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to issue more ITAs through the fall season, in order to reach the annual intake levels set earlier this year for the federal economic immigration programs that receive applications through Express Entry. An IRCC representative made comments earlier this year to that effect, and it now appears that that prediction is becoming a reality.
With the number of ITAs having increased and the CRS cut-off point going down substantially, many candidates who did not receive an ITA on this occasion remain optimistic about achieving their Canadian immigration goals.

Obtaining an ITA

When the government of Canada published its year-end 2015 Express Entry report, it stated that more than half (57 percent) of candidates who received an ITA in 2015 had Core CRS scores below 450* (Core CRS indicates a candidate’s score without the additional 600 points for a job offer or an enhanced provincial nomination certificate). Many of these selected candidates entered the pool before receiving an enhanced provincial nomination certificate from a Canadian province.
Since Express Entry was first introduced in January, 2015, more and more Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)options have become available to Express Entry candidates. For example, since the previous Express Entry draw took place on September 7, the province of British Columbia (BC) conducted a draw for the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP). Approximately half of the total 477 candidates for immigration to BC who were invited in that draw were Express Entry candidates who had previously created a profile in the federal Express Entry system. These skilled worker and international graduate candidates are now in a position to obtain a provincial nomination certificate, after which they may be awarded 600 additional CRS points and an ITA in a subsequent draw from the pool.
With many other PNP categories opening and closing quickly (such as Saskatchewan’s International Skilled Worker – Express Entry sub-category) evidence suggests that being ready to apply for such opportunities in advance is key to ultimately receiving an ITA for permanent residence.
There are many potential ways in which candidates may increase their CRS score, and thereby increase their chances of receiving an ITA. For tips for improving Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System scores, click here.

Taking the opportunity

“The latest developments in Express Entry are very encouraging,” says Attorney David Cohen. “IRCC’s forecast that the number of invitations to apply would increase is coming to fruition, and candidates in the pool continue to have opportunities to obtain additional points, particularly through the Provincial Nominee Programs.
“In addition to the latest positive developments, the government of Canada has made it quite clear that it is looking at increasing the number of immigrants to Canada in 2017 and beyond. Not only that, it has stated that it is looking at options to make changes to the Express Entry system. The exact changes, if and when they happen, are not yet known. Accordingly, individuals who are currently eligible to enter the pool are encouraged to do so. It is only once a candidate is in the pool that he or she may attract the attention of Canadian provinces that are looking to welcome newcomers through a PNP, as well as Canadian employers hiring through the Express Entry system.”

To find out if you are eligible for immigration to Canada, including through the federal economic programs that are processed under Express Entry, please fill out a free online assessment today.

*The lowest CRS cut-off point in any draw that has taken place so far is 450.
© 2016 CICnews All Rights Reserved


The Centre Block on Parliament Hill, containin...
The Centre Block on Parliament Hill, containing the houses of the ByCanadian parliament (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To be competitive in our global economy, Canadian businesses need the right people and access to critical skills to deliver results quickly. Unfortunately, the battle for such talent is fierce and many employers in the Canadian startup and innovation space struggle to attract and retain key workers. In fact, the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) predicts that, by 2019, Canada will need an additional 182,000 skilled information and communications technology workers alone to meet the domestic needs of employers.
With the pervasive skills shortages in key sectors, employers often need to turn to foreign workers. However, it has become increasingly evident that Canada’s economic immigration policy does not adequately support the specific talent needs of startup and innovative companies, thereby hindering their growth and plans.

The current challenges startups are facing

The current immigration programs present challenges, both in employing temporary foreign workers and transitioning their status to become permanent residents of Canada.
Typically, to employ a foreign national in Canada, an employer must first obtain government approval by demonstrating that there are no willing and qualified Canadians to assume the proposed role. This process, known as the Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”), requires the employer to undertake extensive public recruitment, which can be costly and time-consuming. Moreover, the process may be unnecessarily redundant for employers in the area of innovation – the skills shortage in Canada is indisputable.
Canadian companies within the innovation ecosystem often have to resort to limited immigration strategies, resulting in prolonged processing times.
In addition, employment terms offered by innovation and startup companies are usually in conflict with the LMIA review criteria. For example, many new (and often cash-strapped) companies offer compensation packages that are largely based on variable incentives, whereas an LMIA approval requires a guaranteed salary. Furthermore, innovation and startup companies often have unconventional roles and fluid job duties, which do not fit neatly into the National Occupational Classification system as required by the LMIA.
Secondly, the Express Entry system, through which permanent residency applications are processed, is largely ineffective for innovation companies to secure or retain foreign talent. Under Express Entry, candidates are awarded points based on various factors and ranked against each other based on their total points. Candidates with a ‘Qualifying Offer of Arranged Employment’ are awarded 600 out of the total 1,200 points, significantly improving their chance of receiving an ‘Invitation to Apply’ for permanent residence. A job offer of “indefinite” duration and which is supported by an LMIA is one of the only ways to qualify for the “arranged employment” points. Given the challenges faced by innovation and startup companies with obtaining LMIAs, this is a significant impediment for these foreign worker candidates.
As a result, Canadian companies within the innovation ecosystem often have to resort to limited immigration strategies, which usually means prolonged processing times. All too often, from the time a foreign worker is identified to the completion of the temporary or permanent immigration process, significant business opportunities have been missed. Indeed, innovators and opportunities are frequently lost to global competitors.

Canada’s immigration policies must support innovation and growth

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has publicly stated that immigration policies are not against hiring temporary foreign workers, but employers are encouraged to consider a permanent residence solution first. Canadian innovation requires the opposite approach; there must be an expedited temporary solution to first meet immediate business needs and compete globally, and the permanent residence solution should follow as an incentive.
An immigration solution must be developed based on a policy rationale that supports Canadian innovation and economic growth. Under Section 205 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, a work permit can be issued without an LMIA to a foreign national to perform work that would create or maintain significant social, cultural or economic benefits for Canadians. If necessary, IRCC has the authority to create new work permit categories that achieve the legislative intent of Section 205. This is not unusual or unprecedented; in February 2016, IRCC created a new LMIA-exempt work permit category for television and film production workers on the basis of the anticipated significant economic benefits for Canadians.

An ‘innovation-based’ work permit

A feasible solution would be for IRCC to create an ‘innovation-based’ work permit category, exempt from an LMIA pursuant to Section 205, for workers in the innovation space based on the anticipated benefits to the Canadian Innovation Ecosystem. Policy considerations for innovation based work permits may include: developing Canada’s innovation ecosystem; supporting significant innovation projects and ideas; growing Canada’s innovation footprint internationally; attracting foreign investment and talents; enabling skills transfer, training and new job creation for Canadians; and stimulating business growth. In developing the criteria for the exemption, IRCC policymakers should consult with innovation experts, academics, businesses and industry advisors. While a broad LMIA-exempt work permit category currently exists for workers that provide “significant” social, cultural and economic benefit to Canada, there is a need for a specific exemption that addresses the uniqueness and value of Canadian innovation.
A temporary immigration solution by way of an innovation-based work permit should, in turn, correspond with amendments to Canada’s permanent residence system in order to facilitate long-term talent retention in Canada. In particular, foreign workers holding such work permits could be awarded additional points under Express Entry, thereby increasing their likelihood of receiving an invitation to apply for permanent residence. It would also be a creative incentive to ensure Canada is able to retain key skilled workers to address long-term labour market shortages.
If the government is truly committed to making innovation an intrinsic Canadian value, it must carve out a bolder, more aggressive immigration policy to support our innovation and startup culture. The timing seems right, with a Minister of Immigration who has a strong economic background and a government that has prioritized innovation to be a national priority. In fact, the policy rationale supporting innovation-based work permits is entirely consistent with the Federal Government’s Innovation Agenda which seeks to establish Canada as an innovation leader and improve the ease of doing business in Canada.
Additionally, Canada could benefit significantly in attracting new startup ideas, entrepreneurs, and investors, by promoting an efficient and focused immigration strategy designed to support the growth of new businesses in the innovation space.


Bill Gates says Trudeau's approach to immigration, refugees good for business

By Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Canada's open approach to immigration and its willingness to welcome tens of thousands of Syrian refugees is an "enlightened" move that will benefit the country's business sector, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says.
The business leader and philanthropist was in Vancouver on Tuesday to speak at the Emerging Cascadia Innovation Conference, aimed at strengthening the technology and business ties between British Columbia and Washington state.
"I think Canada's very well positioned. It's got good, strong universities, good policies -- certainly more enlightened immigration policies than most countries have, which is a real asset," said Gates, who is listed by the American business magazine Forbes as the richest man in the world with a US$81-billion net worth.
Gates commended Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his role in helping people fleeing conflict in the Middle East.
"He as a leader wants to remind people about openness and taking in refugees in an appropriate way."
Gates also spoke about the need to address the gender gap in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as the importance of investing in education.
"It is no coincidence that if you look at high-tech jobs in a location there is a very strong correlation to where you have very high-quality universities," he said.

Research highlighted 

Gates addressed the crowd of mostly business and government leaders alongside Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who's been at the helm of the company since 2014.
"I'm very, very excited about the work we're doing in Vancouver," Nadella said, adding that he hopes to establish the same research and development partnerships with the University of British Columbia that exist with the University of Washington.
"It's the human capital that is going to make a fundamental impact in terms of what Microsoft's future is."
In 2014, the Canadian government sped up the immigration process by exempting Microsoft from having its foreign employees complete labour market impact assessments.
The federal government has been criticized for the move, as Microsoft faces accusations of using Vancouver as a "staging ground" for non-Americans to qualify more quickly for a transfer to the U.S.
Earlier on Tuesday, the premier of British Columbia and governor of Washington state advocated for the expansion of an innovation corridor between the two jurisdictions to bolster research efforts, which they predicted will one day lead researchers to find a cure for cancer.
The success and the potential of strengthening cross-border collaboration was trumpeted by Premier Christy Clark and Gov. Jay Inslee.
The leaders also floated the possibility of developing joint academic degree programs, which could be started on one side of the border and finished on the other, as well as linking PhD certificates to offers of citizenship.
Clark and Inslee's speeches focused heavily on past successes as both leaders gear up in the coming months to face voters for re-election.
Clark drew laughter and applause when she referenced the common features of Washington State and B.C., which she said included an abundance of rain, mountains and ocean, as well as opposition to U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

Pilot program aims to help new immigrants to Guelph find jobs

English: Wellington Brewery in Guelph, Ontario
English: Wellington Brewery in Guelph, Ontario (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Source: Guelph Mercury
For new immigrants coming to Canada, a key part of getting settled in a community is finding a job, but the task is not always easy, even where there are jobs available.
A new program piloted by Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington is aiming to help newcomers get the skills they need to get hired, while at the same time filling a need in the local labour market.
“The program has already been employing people,” says Immigrant Services employment co-ordinator Sohrab Rahmaty.
It’s called the Circle of Learning, and it officially started on Sept. 8 with a group of around a dozen people from various countries, all of whom have settled in Canada and are looking for jobs.
“They’re all newcomers from different walks of life,” said Rahmaty.
Among their countries of origin are Iran, Russia, Iraq, Israel, Ethiopia and Somalia, to name a few. Some of them have been in Canada for years, some for only weeks. Some are employed, but are looking for better jobs, some are looking for jobs in a particular field, others are looking to move from volunteering into paid work.
The Circle of Learning program is meant to help them reach their goals by providing training in a variety of essential skills that will help them through the employment process in Canada.
“Some of the things could be very elementary for a Canadian who has been here for a long time,” Rahmaty said.
While many people born in Canada might take elements of the employment process — from preparing a resume, to interview, to hiring — for granted, the process may not be so simple for someone who is not from here, explained Rahmaty.
“Back home, it would be different, the way you look for jobs,” he said.
Differences might range from job qualifications and training standards to workplace culture and social conventions.
As well, those who are new to Canada often face a number of other challenges, such as a language barrier or difficulty making connections.
“It’s multiple things,” Rahmaty said. “It’s lack of Canadian experience; it’s low language skills; it’s the uncertainty and the complexity of trying to navigate the labour market.”
Topics included in the seven-week program include Canadian workplace culture, interview and interpersonal communications, community networking, workplace health and safety, first aid, customer service, and more.
While there are other offices that provide employment services and programs in Guelph, Immigrant Services is the office best positioned to provide these services to newcomers, Rahmaty said.
“We’re the most front-line organization when it comes to immigrant issues in Guelph,” he said, noting the organization is seeing a high demand for an employment program.
“Our difference is that we have in-house language facilitators,” he said.
It can be difficult for other local agencies to navigate the system with someone who doesn’t have a strong command of English, he said.
In the classroom at Immigrant Services on Dawson Road, where most of the first half of the training program is taking place, the majority of people sitting around the table have some command of English.
At the back, a translator sits, softly repeating the facilitator’s words to a couple of the participants in their own language.
The topic of this class is applying for jobs and interview skills.
“Speaking over the phone is even more difficult than in person,” says Yorlenis Proenza, who works in pre-employment and volunteer development at Immigrant Services, and is leading the class. She is speaking about the happy, but also nerve-wracking experience of being contacted for an interview.
“Language skills make it scary,” said Leila Kamali, a program participant who came to Canada five years ago from Iran.
“English is not our first language, so we may have to take extra time to articulate,” responds Proenza, who comes from Cuba.
She is running through the step-by-step process of applying for a job, going over everything from how to answer the phone when a potential employer calls to how to dress for an interview, to the proper way to conduct oneself in an interview situation.
“Not every country in the world is used to the eye-contact thing,” Proenza says, noting a key cultural difference the students may encounter.
Her coaching is geared toward providing the skills they will need to be confident in their quest for a job.
Later in the day, the class goes through some mock interviews to put those skills into action.
For Kamali, the hope is to find a better job than the one she was previously doing.
Kamali has a bachelor’s degree in food nutrition, and has studied quality assurance at Conestoga College. She worked for a couple of years in a local restaurant, but is looking for a job that fits better with her field of study.
“I thought it might be helpful to be familiar with the workplace and Canadian work culture,” Kamali said of her reasons for joining the Circle of Learning program.
“Here, there are very kind people. They try to help us and connect us,” she said of the people at Immigrant Services. “Also, they teach us. They know lots about what you should do and don’t do.”
Kamali said she is also looking forward to the WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and first aid training, which she thinks will be a good asset on her resume.
“You have to pay for this sometimes, and this is free,” she said.
While the goal is to help people find meaningful employment, there is also a hope that the program will help local companies that are experiencing hiring difficulties.
“We’re doing this to help the labour market shortage,” Rahmaty said.
Locally, there’s a demand for workers in warehouse settings, as well as merchandising and customer service, he said.
“While they’re doing training, we’re also working with employers to find these people placements once they get out,” he said, noting for some of the participants just making those connections will be key.
In the latter half of the once-a-week training program, participants will move onto technical and applied workshops, some of which will be held at actual worksites, where they can learn hands-on skills.
Immigrant Services is partnering with local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Action Read for some of these elements.
“This program is developed as a community-based program,” said Rahmaty, noting the program’s partnerships “allow our newcomers to be exposed to the different organizations in the city.”
There is also an education component to the program, where the University of Guelph, Conestoga College, and the Wellington Centre for Continuing Education will provide information for those who are looking to further their Canadian education, Rahmaty said.
The program is being piloted thanks to support from the Co-operators Insurance Group’s Community Economic Development Fund, but the hope is to be able to offer it on an ongoing basis, Rahmaty said.
“I think the demand is showing itself,” he said. “It’s something that is needed for Guelph-Wellington.”

Bill Gates commends Canada's immigration approach

English: Signage at Canada Place, Vancouver, B...
English: Signage at Canada Place, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
VANCOUVER - Canada's open approach to immigration and its willingness to welcome tens of thousands of Syrian refugees is an "enlightened" move that will benefit the country's business sector, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says.
The business leader and philanthropist was in Vancouver on Tuesday to speak at the Emerging Cascadia Innovation Conference, aimed at strengthening the technology and business ties between British Columbia and Washington state.
"I think Canada's very well positioned. It's got good, strong universities, good policies — certainly more enlightened immigration policies than most countries have, which is a real asset," said Gates, who is listed by the American business magazine Forbes as the richest man in the world with a $81-billion (U.S.) net worth.
Gates commended Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his role in helping people fleeing conflict in the Middle East.
"He as a leader wants to remind people about openness and taking in refugees in an appropriate way."
Gates also spoke about the need to address the gender gap in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as the importance of investing in education.
"It is no coincidence that if you look at high-tech jobs in a location there is a very strong correlation to where you have very high-quality universities," he said.
Gates addressed the crowd of mostly business and government leaders alongside Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who's been at the helm of the company since 2014.
"I'm very, very excited about the work we're doing in Vancouver," Nadella said, adding that he hopes to establish the same research and development partnerships with the University of British Columbia that exist with the University of Washington.
"It's the human capital that is going to make a fundamental impact in terms of what Microsoft's future is."
In 2014, the Canadian government sped up the immigration process by exempting Microsoft from having its foreign employees complete labour market impact assessments.
The federal government has been criticized for the move, as Microsoft faces accusations of using Vancouver as a "staging ground" for non-Americans to qualify more quickly for a transfer to the U.S.
Earlier on Tuesday, the premier of British Columbia and governor of Washington state advocated for the expansion of an innovation corridor between the two jurisdictions to bolster research efforts, which they predicted will one day lead researchers to find a cure for cancer.
The success and the potential of strengthening cross-border collaboration was trumpeted by Premier Christy Clark and Gov. Jay Inslee.
The leaders also floated the possibility of developing joint academic degree programs, which could be started on one side of the border and finished on the other, as well as linking PhD certificates to offers of citizenship.
Clark and Inslee's speeches focused heavily on past successes as both leaders gear up in the coming months to face voters for re-election.
Clark drew laughter and applause when she referenced the common features of Washington state and B.C., which she said included an abundance of rain, mountains and ocean, as well as opposition to U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
— Follow @gwomand on Twitter

Friday, August 12, 2016

John McCallum wants to 'substantially increase' immigration to fill Canada's labour needs

English: The recreation of the immigration hal...
English: The recreation of the immigration hall at Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Canada's immigration minister points to an aging population and looming labour shortages

By Susana Mas, CBC News Posted: Aug 12, 2016 6:03 PM ET Last Updated: Aug 12, 2016 7:03 PM ET

If Immigration Minister John McCallum gets his way, Canada will significantly increase immigration beyond its current record level as a way to fill the country's labour needs.
Pointing to an aging population and looming labour shortages, McCallum made the pitch in Manila during a speech to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines on Friday.
"So why not substantially increase the number of immigrants coming to Canada? And that is, I think, I hope, what we are about to do," McCallum said, according to a transcript of his remarks obtained by CBC News.

  • Earlier in the week, McCallum was in Beijing, where he sought to open more offices where Chinese can apply for visas, in the hope of attracting more high-skilled workers.
The Trudeau government is already seeking to admit between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016 — a record increase from the 260,000 to 285,000 newcomers the previous Conservative government had planned to welcome by the end of 2015.
Key to the Liberal government's larger plan to promote innovation and grow the economy is McCallum's three-year immigration plan, which he plans to unveil this fall.
McCallum said no final decision on immigration has been made and that he has to get his cabinet colleagues on board with his new plan and convince Canadians it's the right thing to do.
"But the direction in which I would like to go is to increase substantially the number of immigrants," McCallum said Friday.

Reducing 'barriers' to immigration

The express entry system launched under the previous Conservative government promised transformative changes to Canada's economic immigration policy.
McCallum will ease some of the rules to make it easier for international students to come to Canada and become permanent residents.
He is also going to eliminate what is known as a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) —  a document all employers need to hire foreign nationals over Canadian workers.
Businesses have said it is the biggest flaw with express entry, a requirement the previous government borrowed from the temporary foreign worker program.
The Liberal government also tasked a parliamentary committee with a review of the controversial foreign worker program, but Parliament adjourned before the report was tabled. It will now be made public in the fall.
"So we're going to make it easier for international students, we're going to reduce some of the barriers in our immigration system … we don't think that every immigrant needs to go through what we call a labour market impact assessment process. We think it can be simplified. We think there are some rules which are no longer necessary," McCallum said.
"Now, we have to convince Canadians of this. But I think it's a good idea."
McCallum, who worked as a chief economist at one of Canada's Big Five banks and a professor of economics before he entered politics, also acknowledged he has his work cut out for him.
"Not every Canadian will agree. But I think with our mindset of welcoming newcomers in the beginning, with the facts of the labour shortages, aging population, we have a good case to make, and I think we will be able to convince a higher proportion of Canadians that this is the right way for Canada to go."
Philippines is currently the top source country for permanent residents in Canada, according to data published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as of May 31.
The immigration minister also said that processing times for reuniting families from the Philippines has dropped "dramatically" to 12 months, "cut in half in just a year."
The Liberal government promised during last fall's federal election campaign to reduce processing wait times in all categories.
Follow @SusanaMas on Twitter.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pilot immigration programme to boost economic development in Atlantic Canada

Prince Edward Island (Canada), July 30 : Canada's federal government recently allied with four premiers of Atlantic Canada to introduce a 'New Atlantic Growth Strategy' to boost the region's economy by allowing immigration of new skilled workers, according to media reports in Canada.

The three-year-old pilot project will aim to bring to Canada over 2,000 immigrants and their families by 2017 in addition to the normal intake currently being allowed under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

The announcement was made at a press conference in St Peters Bay at Prince Edward Island earlier this month. The meeting was attended by the four Atlantic premiers -- Brian Gallant, Premier New Brunswick; Dwight Ball, Premier Newfoundland Labrador; Stephen McNeil, PremierNova Scotia; and Wade MacLauchlan, Premier Prince Edward Island. Federal Immigration Minister John McCallum and Innovation Minister Navdeep Singh Bains were also present in the meeting.

The immigration component will be largely driven by the provincial governments and their specific needs, said Immigration Minister, John McCallum.

We. . .will work with each government to develop a plan specific to their own province with a focus on particular occupations, particular regions and with a focus on engaging companies to not only recruit the immigrants but to undertake measures to keep them here, he said.

According to McCallum, the two levels of government will find ways to confirm that once immigrants arrive, theyll stay in a particular region as it will accelerate credentials for different jobs.

He mentioned that apparently, the program is a pilot project in Atlantic Canada. However, it could be the model for the rest of the country in the near future.

Investment matters:

When it comes to bringing home new immigrants, it is also important to secure jobs of existing residents. New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant emphasized that attracting new people and repatriating residents are both part of the same consolidated effort.

Premier MacLauchlan also said that through immigration, We will make Prince Edward Island a more attractive place in terms of repatriation. He mentioned that in order to create sustained prosperity, the workforce in his province must grow.

Dwight Ball, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier, however, pointed out that while increased immigration is necessary for the growth of the region, existing residents who are unemployed shall not be overlooked.

He said, Newfoundland and Labrador will continue to invest in our residents who are ready and looking for employment. We will continue to train those that are under-skilled and looking for work.

Ageing population concerns:

The new growth strategy also aims to address the ageing demography of Atlantic Canada.

According to figures released by Statistics Canada for the second quarter of 2014, overall population in the region has fallen 0.4 per cent since the third quarter of 2012, to 2,364,770. This shows that there is a marked difference between the mortality rate and the birth rate in the three provinces of Atlantic Canada; Prince Edward Island is the only exception.

Therefore, emphasis is given highly on retaining immigrants by working with the provincial governments and employers together so that future immigration can be tied up with labour market requirements in the region.

Innovation is essential:

To build up a strong economy, the premiers said they will also focus on priority areas like innovation, trade and investment and infrastructure. They will also aim to initiate growth and development while switching to a low-carbon economy.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan said in a written release, To build on our successes and create sustained prosperity for Prince Edward Island, we must grow our workforce and continue to foster an environment of innovation and entrepreneurship.

There is also a working agreement with the federal government to improve access to high speed internet and premium cell phone services in the region. This in the long run will aid to market the region internationally for its food and tourism, as well as create jobs to head towards its low carbon economy goal.

The leadership committee formed by the four premiers and federal ministers including John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Navdeep Singh Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Judy Foote, Minister of Public Services and Procurement will oversee the plan.

The leaders say the first phase of the plan will probably be implemented by the end of the year.

(Writing and reporting by Debarati Mukherjee and Chandan Som)