By Ahd AlAshry
A considerable labour shortage has been looming over the construction industry for the past few years. The industry's current growth projections, along with the baby boomers set to retire very soon from jobsites, place the sector at risk of a sharp labour deficit. Immigration has always been a front-seat driver to the industry and is one of the main ways the market has filled such shortages in the past. Unfortunately, immigrating to Canada with a skilled trade has not been as simple/possible as it could be. This short brief looks at Canada's changing immigration trends and their relation to the construction industry, specifically regarding the supply of skilled trades.
Immigration X Construction Industry
Immigrants have always been big players in the construction industry, and they will most likely carry an even more significant role in the future. The construction sector will need to recruit approximately 310,000 new workers between 2020 and 2029. Current training will provide only about 228,000 new workers, leaving the market with an 82,000 deficit.
In the past, the industry heavily depended on European immigrants to fill this gap, however this is no longer the case as European countries are also looking for ways to fill their labour shortages. With almost all OECD countries facing the same aging population problems as Canada, these countries will now increasingly compete with Canada to recruit the best and the brightest.
Despite the urgency to find ways to bring more immigrants to the industry, construction remains on the losing side of Canadian immigration. A few reasons:
- Canada's shifting focus is aimed at attracting immigrants with post-secondary education.
- The increasingly dominant number of immigrants coming from South Asia and the Middle East has made it much more challenging to attract immigrant groups due to cultural stereotypes/ideas about the industry within those specific communities.
- The capabilities of skilled trades immigrants are usually unaligned with the qualifications of the industry, making immigrants need additional certification and placing a hurdle in their ability to come.
Canadian Immigration Levels and Expected Targets
Canada takes in approximately 310,000 immigrants every year. In 2020, due to the pandemic and its restrictions, there was a shortfall in admissions. Only 283,390 immigrants came to Canada in 2020, almost 58,000 short of the original 341,000 target and nearly 20,000 to 30,000 less than the past two years.
The Canadian federal government revised its 2021 to 2023 Levels Plan by setting much higher targets: 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022, and 421,000 in 2023 (the 2021-2022 previous plan set targets of 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022).
The government has also vowed to bring in more people from the economic class (60%) to rebuild/boost the Canadian economy. Click here for a thorough breakdown.
Pathways For Skilled Trades to Enter Canada
Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW): Not very dependent on this program in the industry. It is expensive and takes a long time. Not an ideal situation.
Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP): Many applicants are unsuccessful due to strict language and educational requirements.
Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC): Created to address the need for construction workers in Canada, though admissions under this program have remained extremely low (has stringent language requirements).
Canadian Experience Class (CEC): Requires a minimum of one year of Canadian work experience. The CEC has proven useful as a pathway for temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Canada to become landed immigrants.
Provincial Nominee Program (PNP): The most favourable immigration policy for construction. It gives provinces greater latitude in selecting immigrants. The program is becoming an increasingly popular entry tool for immigrant workers in the construction industry.
- 2020: 7,819 nominations were issued (650 of those nominations were given additionally to Ontario).
- 2021: Not published yet. We should expect to see something by June.
Streams for Skilled Trades under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP)
Employer Job Offer: Foreign Worker Stream and In-Demand Skills Stream. Both have proved to be more lenient than other programs as they do not have stiff language and education requirements.
Ontario's Express Entry: OINP regularly searches the Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada's (IRCC) Express Entry pool and sends a Notification of Interest to candidates who may meet the criteria of one of Ontario's Express Entry immigration streams.
- 1,464 Notifications of Interest were given to those in the skilled trades stream in 2020.
- 338 Notifications of Interest were given to those in the skilled trades stream as of January 13, 2021. (Find updated numbers here)