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Canadian Construction Industry Hails New Skills Program

professional tradies

The building and construction industry in Canada has welcomed the launch of a new Federal Skilled Trades Program, saying it will serve the industry’s long-term needs more effectively than the current program.

Canadian Construction Association president Michael Atkinson says the introduction of a dedicated and streamlined program for skilled trades overcomes failings in the existing program (a program aimed at importing skilled immigrants in areas of trade shortage) and ensures greater consideration is given to the needs of industry when processing eligible immigration applications.

illegal migrant construction workers“The current Federal Skilled Worker Program is not well oriented to the needs of trades and industry, placing significant emphasis on post-secondary education, and high proficiency levels in Canada’s official languages,” Atkinson says. “These new measures together with earlier announced changes, including the move to an Expression of Interest system by 2014 for the immigration process, promise to make Canada’s permanent immigration system much more responsive to the needs of Canadian employers.”

Announced on Monday by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, the new program, which will come into effect on January 2, will replace the old program.

In order to qualify, applicants must have:

  • an offer of employment in Canada or a certificate of qualification from a province or territory stating that they are ‘job ready’ upon arrival.
  • Basic English or French skills as appropriate
  • A minimum of two years’ experience as a skilled tradesperson
  • Skills and experience matching those set out in the National Occupational Classification (NOC B) system, showing they have performed the essential duties of the occupation.

These criteria, which Atkinson says ensures greater consideration of industry needs, replace the former 100-point system for program eligibility.

Eligible tradespeople will include electricians, welders, heavy-duty equipment mechanics, and pipefitters among others, and the Canadian Immigration Council is working with the provinces, territories and federal government on the list of occupations that are experiencing acute labor shortages and which will qualify for the program.

Current projections from the Construction Sector Council indicate that the Canadian construction industry will need 320,000 new workers by 2020. Indeed, by some estimates, investment in oil sands alone will create demand for an extra 880,000 person years of employment over the next 25 years.

With this in mind, Atkinson says while skills training within Canada remains crucial, the domestic population growth will not provide an adequate supply of labour to fill industry needs and the industry requires a flexible immigration system which responds effectively to industry needs.

Andrew Heaton
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