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Federal job bank to help Canadian employers find skilled foreign workers

The Canadian government plans to introduce legislation that would effectively create a federal job bank that would be used as a tool to offer Canadian companies and employers the ability to cherry pick the right foreign job applicant with their job vacancy.

This was announced by Citizenship minister Jason Kenney during the budget meeting. This tool is similar to what New Zealand is already doing with their Foreign Workers Program and in my opinion is a step towards finally making sense in what is considered to be one of the most contentious issues of Canadian immigration policy.

As a background Canada admits an average of 250,000 immigrants and refugees each year, but the number of temporary foreign workers has risen due to labour shortage issues. There were 190,769 in 2011, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, compared to 179,192 the previous year.

One of the most common gripes against Canadian immigration policy is that it brings in low wage skilled or unskilled workers at a time when there are too few jobs for Canadians. With double digit unemployment in some areas of the country this practice is not only politically untenable it is also unconscionable.

The problem is multifaceted and requires a fresh approach to make the immigration system work for all the stakeholders rather than creating a situation where we have a few winners and a whole lot of losers.

As a background, foreign workers apply for work in Canada and are hired based on their skills and ability to contribute to the Canadian economy and their employers’ bottom-line. They apply for a specific job position for a specific employer. The problem with this approach is that there are some job applicants who have the right skill set and background that an employer may not need at the moment while another employer is badly in need of that applicant but since this employer is unaware that such an applicant exists then this applicant just waits for an opening from an employer who does not need him at the moment or has no need for him at all. This creates a situation where we are wasting the opportunity to hire the best candidate for the right job simply because there is no centralized mechanism that would enable the employer to check who is applying and whether theses applicants are exactly the kind of workers they are looking for.

Another issue that this program will try to solve (which I hope it would) is the problem of having to bring in foreign workers to communities or sectors of the economy where there is massive unemployment. Stricter measures will be implemented to ensure that job offerings will be available to local workers and that the employer has made adequate activities to inform them of such an opening. If these unemployed workers do not apply for these jobs knowing there are openings then the government can say that these workers are not really serious about looking for a job considering that an job was made available for them in the first place.

The plan is to create a federal job bank that will give employers and provinces the ability to look at the skills and background of applicants from overseas and match them with their requirements. If such a match exists then the foreign applicant will be processed faster thereby eliminating the long waiting time that is normally associated with the foreign workers application to Canada.

The program will benefit the worker because his application will be processed faster thereby making him more productive. It also benefits the provinces or the employer because they can hire the best person for the job without having to wait for a long time. This is particularly true for businesses that require the flexibility to hire and source the best workers to ensure they do not lose out on a particular technological or business opportunity that needs quick decisions and actions lest they lose out on the business upside.

Finally this is beneficial for the government because it minimizes the long waiting times and inefficiencies that they have with processing foreign workers applicants and it ensures that the foreign workers that they actually accept have a higher chance of succeeding since there is a perfect match between their capabilities and their long term employment success. It also helps the government deflect some criticism regarding the callousness of bringing in foreign workers to take away jobs in a community where there is massive unemployment for Canadians because there will be a mechanism in place to ensure that these unemployed Canadians are given the opportunity to apply for these jobs rather than receive their employment Insurance.

The federal job bank program is estimated to be up and running in two years. Hopefully it will implemented in such a way that it can minimize the waiting times for foreign applicants and be effective in time for the massive business and technological requirements of Canadian business that badly require the workers to work for them.

Tony Santiago
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

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