The New Federal Skilled Trades Program
Will it solve labour shortages in the residential construction industry?
By Ronalee Carey
Are you finding it difficult to find skilled workers for your business? If so, you are not alone. The Construction Sector Council states that between 2012 and 2020, the construction sector will need 319,000 new workers.
To help Canadian employers find skilled tradespeople, the Canadian government implemented a new immigration program this past January. Called the “Federal Skilled Trades Program,” it is structured similarly to the Federal Skilled Worker Program, which has been traditionally used for higher skilled occupations, such as IT or health care.
While there were always some skilled trades positions on the list, this new program expands greatly on the skilled trades occupations that qualify. Eligible trades now include carpenters, electricians and plumbers; for a complete list of the 43 occupations, visit www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/trades/applications.asp.
To qualify for the program, an immigrant must have at least two years’ experience. Additional requirements include:
The officer from Citizenship and Immigration Canada must be convinced that the skilled worker will be capable of doing the work offered. If the job is regulated in Canada, the officer must also be convinced that the worker will likely qualify to be licensed or certified once in Canada.
In Ontario, The College of Trades provides information on Trade Equivalency Assessments. The assessment process can take up to six weeks, after a meeting with an Employment and Training Officer to complete the Trade Equivalency Assessment Form. This Officer will request supporting documentation, and will verify the credentials and evaluate for equivalency. Information on this assessment process is available at: www.collegeoftrades.ca/membership/trade-assessment-2.
For other provinces, there is a list of trade organizations available at: www.red-seal.ca/c.4nt.1cts@-eng.jsp?#contact_6.
There is a catch to the offer of employment. The employer can’t just offer a job. The employer must first apply to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada for a positive “Labour Market Opinion” (LMO). This involves advertising the position to show that a Canadian is not available to fill the position. The advertisement must offer the “median wage” for the position. If the advertising efforts are unsuccessful, the employer may apply for the LMO. Numerous supporting documents must be provided to HRSDC, including business documentation (such as licenses, income tax information). The worker must be offered the “median wage.”
How long does the immigration process take? This depends on where in the world the immigrant is coming from, as they must apply to the nearest Canadian visa office. Visa offices are inequitably staffed for the number of immigration applications they receive, so processing times vary according to the office. For example, the visa office in Lima, Peru, is currently taking 11 months to process an application for the Federal Skilled Worker program. However, the visa office in Dakar, Senegal, is currently taking 26 months.
Is it possible to have the worker start before their permanent residence application is processed? Not without jumping through a lot of hoops. Employers wanting to hire a foreign worker temporarily must apply for an LMO, except in certain circumstances. The worker must apply for a temporary work visa, and, unless they are coming for less than six months from a country that does not require a visitor visa, a temporary resident permit.
Without question, many employers will find all the administrative requirements, plus the time required for the LMO application and the permanent residence application, a major impediment to hiring a foreign trained skilled worker. However, with a shortage of workers here at home, companies may find that they have no choice but to look overseas for employees.
Ronalee Carey, BA, JD, is an immigration lawyer in private practice in Ottawa. For more information, visit www.ronaleecareylaw.ca.