Why Canada's immigration system misses the mark for employers

Jessy Bains
·3 min read

Small and medium sized businesses want Ottawa to know the current immigration system isn’t fitting their needs because of a skills mismatch and too much red tape.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says more than three quarters of small business owners have struggled to fill positions due to a skill and labour shortage, in a new report.

That leaves employers to look beyond borders to fill the gaps.

“When small business owners turn to the immigration system to fill a vacant position, it’s because they have tried everything else and run out of options,” said Emilie Hayes, senior policy analyst at CFIB, in the report.

“The cost and stress they have to go through to recruit a foreign worker wouldn’t be worth it if this wasn’t their last resort to keep their business operational, and sometimes keep their Canadian workers employed as well.”

The federal government prioritizes immigrants that are university graduates, but that’s not where the labour shortages are.

The CFIB says most business owners seek people with college diplomas or apprenticeships (46 per cent) and a high school diploma or on the job training (31 per cent). Only 19 per cent fit into one of those categories.

Three-fifths of immigrants had a university degree, but less than one in ten jobs that require a degree face labour shortages.

Too much red tape

The CFIB also says the process of bringing in and keeping foreign workers is overly complicated.

“Employers who use the immigration system to fill a vacancy face a complex web of red tape and high costs, especially if they are hiring a temporary foreign worker,” said Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB’s senior VP of national affairs, in the report.

“Once workers are in Canada and have become integrated in their communities and workplaces, it can be extremely difficult to retain them because there are limited pathways to permanent residency, especially for those with lower skill levels.”

The CFIB says businesses are happy with employees they get through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFW) but complicated forms, non-refundable fees, and wait periods up to 12 months or more before recruiting can begin make the process less than ideal.

The CFIB wants Ottawa to simplify the TFW process, ensure that immigrants bring in-demand skills, and create pathways to permanent residency.

Pohlmann says immigrants and foreign workers are instrumental to the success of business owners, who do what they can to help them integrate, but need Ottawa’s help.

“They are valued employees and small business owners go to great lengths to help them integrate, including assisting them with settling or offering training and mentorship,” she said.

“But they can’t do it alone—the government must help both new immigrants and temporary foreign workers connect with employers and help to integrate them into the labour market.”

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

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