A new federal program aimed at matching economic immigrants with jobs in Canada is having difficulties getting the attention of the group it is designed to help.
As Canada’s skills gap continues to widen, with an insufficient number of workers for the jobs available and inadequate temporary entry policies, Express Entry was established to help try to change that.
Run by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and launched in early January, Express Entry is designed to speed up the processing times of applications from economic immigrants. The system applies to the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canadian Experience Class and parts of the Provincial Nominee Programs.
“I think it addresses the key challenge of trying to navigate the immigration process, which was quite time-consuming and expensive in the past,” said Rohail Khan, CEO of Skills International, a professional career and talent management firm with its Canadian headquarters in London, Ont. “Now you’re trying to match people with the right skill sets instead of the old lottery process.”
But a recent survey held by Skills International revealed that 71 per cent of employers in Western Canada had never even heard of Express Entry.
Under Express Entry, applicants can submit their profile to a pool, as well as the Canada Job Bank, a nation-wide database of job postings. Employers will then be able to review the job bank and provide offers to candidates. Applicants with approved job offers are later invited to formally apply for permanent residence in Canada.
“If you’re not doing it from an employer vantage point, we’re continuing the problems of the past where we’ve permitted people with the wrong skills to come into Canada only to have them take up survival jobs,” said Khan.
Remaining candidates without hiring employers are ranked using a point system based on a variety of factors, such as age, education and language. This means that a younger person will score higher than an older person, for instance, while a candidate who has an interested employer would score 600 points. The maximum score a candidate can get on his or her profile is 1,200.
“There’s a lot of confusion as to how this system works and it’s become unusable and unfriendly to employers, particularly if you’re dealing with small or medium-sized firms,” said Sarah Anson-Cartwright, director of skills policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “But in principle, if we can get some fixes through the LMIA requirement and point system, it could be a way for immigrants to come into our labour market and get recognized.”
A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a document that employers in Canada may need to obtain before hiring foreign workers. Under Express Entry, the LMIA process ensures that foreign workers can only be hired if a qualified Canadian worker cannot be found.
According to a mid-year report released by CIC, a total of 41,218 foreign nationals were active in the Express Entry pool as of July. CIC was not available for comment.
Montreal corporate immigration lawyer Colin Singer, however, noted that while the program was implemented with the best intentions and will be able to prevent application backlogs, employers would not likely want to hire someone they haven’t met.
“[The government] may have looked at it from an immigration standpoint, but in terms of employment, it’s very different here in Canada than it is in, say, New Zealand,” Singer said in an interview. “We have 10 different jurisdictions and numerous sub-labour markets all across the country.”
Almost half of invited candidates through Express Entry hail from Asia, with India and the Philippines ranking as the top two source countries – 20.8 per cent of invitations so far have been given to Indian Nationals and 19.4 per cent of invitations to Philippine Nationals, respectively.
“[The government] has the potential to get its numbers and they won’t have as many backlogs or problems delivering finalized cases, so from that perspective alone, it’s a success,” said Singer. “You’ll need to look at it from many different angles though to really assess and at this point it’s too early to tell – we’ll need a full two years.”