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Greater Victoria, BC News

ARTICLE

Date ArticleType
7/1/2016 Published Article
Immigration For Our Workforce of Tomorrow

In Greater Victoria, businesses are already citing challenges in hiring and retaining skilled workers as a barrier to growth. This is not just an issue within our region - B.C. presently has the highest job vacancy rate in Canada, at 2.8 percent. As B.C continues to lead Canada in economic growth, it only makes sense that these challenges will intensify.

Some of these challenges can be tied to affordable housing – it is simply not worth their while for some to move here, especially for entry-level and low-skilled positions. Others are related to our increasingly knowledge-based economy, where we have emerging skillsets that are simply scarce domestically. Consequently, businesses are seeking ways to fill labour gaps by tapping into every available source of talent, including the opportunities available through Canada’s inclusive immigration policy.

“Immigration is a great resource for Greater Victoria businesses,” said Chamber CEO Catherine Holt. “Immigrants possess new thoughts and ideas on innovation and entrepreneurship and often have the connections and perspectives that allow us to act locally, think globally.”

The Canadian government is seeking a record number of newcomers this year. On March 8, 2016, the Honourable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced that Canada will admit between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents this year. This is the highest projected level in decades.

One of the fastest growing immigration classes is the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), which allows skilled foreign workers who have been working in Canada on a temporary basis and foreign graduates of Canadian postsecondary institutions with work experience to apply for permanent residency without leaving the country. It is being able to stay in Canada during the application process that helps make Canada even more attractive to international students, which ultimately helps to fill stubborn vacancies as well as reduce our demographic.

“By 2041, we are projected to have more seniors than working-aged people,” added Catherine, referring to an Urban Futures report, People and Jobs in British Columbia’s Future. “Without the addition of a significant number of young immigrants, we will not only have increased job vacancies, but an eroding tax base and increasing health care costs.”

B.C. is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.

“Currently, almost one-half of international students come from Asia and will form the largest segment of those who will become residents,” said David Aujla, a local immigration lawyer with over 42 years of experience. “One of the benefits of this change will be the strong international business links Canada will develop in future commerce with such a large foreign-born population.”

When looking at foreign talent, international students are an option well worth considering – they have Canadian credentials, they have already integrated to some extent into Canada, and they have shown adaptability. Hiring them is a win-win for Canada, B.C., and businesses.

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Peggy Kulmala is the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s manager of policy and public affairs.

Published July 2016 Business Examiner

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