Employer Roundtables on the Expression of Interest System

Overview

In fall 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) held consultations with Canadian employers on a major next step in building a fast and flexible immigration system – the creation of a pool of skilled workers ready to begin employment in Canada – a commitment made in Economic Action Plan 2012.

Inspired by an approach developed by New Zealand – and now also being used in Australia – an Expression of Interest (EOI) application system is the model the Government of Canada plans to use to create this pool of skilled workers.

Roundtable meetings led by CIC Deputy Minister Neil Yeates and other senior officials were held with employers to discuss how such a system could help meet employer needs. The following meetings were held:

  • September 24, 2012 – Ottawa, Ontario
  • October 2, 2012 – Toronto, Ontario
  • October 9, 2012 – Calgary, Alberta
  • October 11, 2012 – Vancouver, British Columbia
  • October 12, 2012 – Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • October 25, 2012 – Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • November 22, 2012 – St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

The roundtable meetings were attended by a total of approximately 70 employers representing a range of perspectives, including large firms, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), manufacturers and exporters, chambers of commerce, sector councils, universities and community colleges and immigrant employment councils. Represented sectors included oil, gas and hydro electrical energy, mining, construction, engineering, information and communications technology (ICT), entertainment software, health, tourism and hospitality, the food and restaurant industry, agri-food, seafood processing, retail, trucking and the garment industry.

Also in attendance were the representatives of provincial and territorial governments with whom CIC is collaborating on elements of the EOI design and implementation.

In advance of the meetings, CIC provided participants with a background document to explain the proposed skilled worker pool and identify key questions in system design, pool eligibility and the role of employers.

Following is a summary of feedback received during the roundtable meetings. Further consultations with employers are anticipated to be held in spring/summer 2013.

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Summary of Discussion

Overall Comments

A range of views on the creation of a pool of skilled workers through an EOI application system were expressed during the consultations. These views can be grouped under three main themes:

  1. Employers would welcome the creation of a pool of prospective immigrants that Canadian firms could search to find candidates for skilled employment;
  2. To maximize interest and relevance to employers, the pool would need to be easy to use with a guarantee of fast processing; and
  3. Ideally, the pool would also represent a reliable source of qualified candidates able to help address labour market needs across a wide range of occupations, skill levels and regions of the country.

Summary of Discussion

The following are key highlights of the feedback received during the roundtable meetings.

Criteria for a Successful Skilled Worker Pool – Fast, Clear and Responsive to Canada’s Labour Market Needs and to SMEs

Employers indicated that they would want the EOI pool to meet a number of important criteria including:

  • Simplicity and clarity of use for large firms as well as SMEs; and
  • A guarantee of fast processing to ensure the timeliness and relevance of immigrant selections.

Employers responded positively to the EOI model, noting potential benefits of a streamlined “single-window” approach. It was observed that such a model could help employers more easily navigate the immigration system.

Some participants suggested that the current system favours larger organizations with the human and financial resources to navigate the existing immigration programs. It was generally agreed that SMEs could greatly benefit from the EOI system, as it was perceived as being less demanding on resources.

Moreover, employers indicated that the pool would need to be a trustworthy source of qualified candidates who, where possible, would have their qualifications already recognized by the appropriate professional bodies in Canada before being selected.

Employers added that they would want the number and type of prospective immigrants on offer in the pool to be sufficiently broad to help address labour market needs across a wide range of occupations, skill levels, regions and sectors of the Canadian economy.

Employer Feedback on the Proposed Pool of Skilled Workers

“What our membership - the plurality of our membership will be looking for is low information costs, low search costs, client-centred, one window from an employer perspective as well. So you know, when you're talking to Citizenship and Immigration, there's one interface that can help you navigate the entirety of the program [...] I think that that would be a tremendous value-added.”
“Another huge, huge issue for small business owners who don’t have HR departments, don’t have [...] immigration folks that deal with this stuff on a full-time basis. This is the owner trying to figure this out. This is often the owner in the evenings, in the weekends trying to figure this stuff out. So the cost, the ease of use is super important for uptake from the small business community.”
“There’s really two levels of [...] employers. There’s the employers that [hire] nurses. There’s always a requirement for that type of employment and they’re willing to wait to fill those vacancies. Then there’s the other form of employer that if you can’t get the person here in six months, we don’t want them. And that’s where the challenge is going to come in. I mean, we’ve had this discussion so many times that you go round and round. Unless you can guarantee six months, I don’t want to play ball.”

The Employer Role

Over the course of the consultations, a number of national and regional employer organizations indicated their interest in serving an intermediary role in the future operation of a skilled worker pool. For instance, employer association representatives expressed a willingness to:

  • Assist SMEs in navigating the immigration system and the skilled worker pool in particular; and
  • Collect and provide timely and relevant labour market information to help shape criteria for immigrant recruitment and selection.

CIC also informed employers that access to such a pool will require some form of employer registration to help ensure the integrity of the process and compliance with agreed-upon conditions for system use and immigrant selection.

Pool Eligibility and Selection Criteria

The qualifications required by applicants to be entered into the EOI pool were a point of discussion in the roundtables. Employers broadly discussed considerations for selection criteria such as language, Canadian and international work experience, specialized skill areas, credentials and adaptability. Overall, employers agreed that a successful EOI selection system would need to be flexible to accommodate different employer needs and requirements.

Application Management – Design and Implementation

Canadian employers indicated that they would like to learn more about the mechanics of the proposed pool’s operation and made evident their interest in being further consulted on pool design and implementation.

Key questions posed by employers will be a focus for a second wave of employer consultations that CIC is planning for Winter/Spring 2013, including:

  • How will an employer access the pool?
  • Will there be fees for accessing the pool?
  • How will employers and candidates be connected?
  • What will be the importance in the selection process accorded to a job offer made to a candidate?

Important points made by employers addressed:

  • their experience – and frustrations – with the current immigration program;
  • their desire for a clearer, faster and more accessible process; and
  • their interest in being able to nominate and hire prospective immigrants across a broad spectrum of skills and occupations.

Other Comments – Employer Experience with the Current Immigration Program

There has been significant growth in employer use of the immigration program in the last 10 years, most notably through two streams, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

The TFWP is a demand-driven program through which employers may hire foreign nationals on a temporary basis to fill labour and skills shortages. The hiring of TFWs is subject to priority processing and requires, in some cases, a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) issued by HRSDC (with whom CIC jointly administers the program). The LMO process ensures that employers have made a strong effort to find a Canadian to perform the job. Temporary foreign workers fit a range of skills profiles and are employed primarily in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta.

For its part, the PNP is a permanent residence program that has recently become Canada’s second largest economic immigration stream, representing a projected 42,000-45,000 admissions in 2012. Immigrants in this program – also subject to priority processing by CIC – are nominated by provincial and territorial governments to reflect regional needs including, notably, those of employers.

Over the course of the consultations, a number of employers indicated their satisfaction with the responsiveness of the PNP, as well as with the recent introduction of an Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO), intended to speed up processing for employers with a solid track record of compliance in their use of the TFWP. The announcement of the creation of a new Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) was also well received by employers participating in the roundtables. The FSTP opened for applications on January 2, 2013.

A wide range of employers, however, expressed frustration with many aspects of their experience with the immigration program, including:

  • The complexity and slowness of immigration processes, cited as a challenge for both large firms and SMEs, and an obstacle to being able to find foreign nationals to fill labour and skill shortages in a timely fashion.
  • The difficulty in a number of sectors, such as ICT, to have positions employers are looking to fill with foreign nationals to be captured in Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes, administered by HRSDC. Classification of a position – or of a candidate’s occupation and work experience – at the NOC O, A or B skill level (representing a management position or employment requiring a university or college level education) is an eligibility requirement in a number of economic immigration categories.

A number of employers expressed a high degree of interest in being able to use the immigration program, including the proposed EOI pool, to staff semi-skilled or low-skilled positions.

Employers indicated that many positions at these skill levels are currently difficult to fill and will likely remain difficult to fill in the future.

Employers also remarked on the ongoing challenges involved in having foreign nationals’ qualifications recognized by Canadian professional bodies in a timely fashion and in line with the procedures and timelines for immigration processing.

Next Steps

Informal follow-up conversations with a number of interested employers and employer associations have taken place since the roundtable sessions were held. Based on feedback from employers, as well as collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, CIC will continue to develop elements of the design and implementation of an EOI system. Further roundtable meetings with employers are anticipated to be held in spring/summer 2013.

Annex A: Roundtable Locations and Participants

The following is the list of stakeholder organizations who participated in the roundtables led by Deputy Minister Neil Yeates and other senior officials.

September 24, 2012 – Ottawa, Ontario
CIC National Headquarters, 365 Laurier Avenue West

  • Alliance of Sector Councils
  • Association of Canadian Community Colleges
  • Canadian Chamber of Commerce
  • Canadian Constructions Association
  • Canadian Employee Relocation Council
  • Canadian Federation of Independent Business
  • Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
  • Electricity Sector Council
  • Engineers Canada
  • Information and Communication Technology Council
  • Medical Council of Canada
  • Mining Association of Canada
  • Monster.ca
  • Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Retail Council of Canada

Observer:

  • Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration

October 2, 2012 – Toronto, Ontario
CIC Regional Office, 25 St. Clair Avenue East

  • Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills
  • Council of Ontario Construction Associations
  • Entertainment Software Association of Canada
  • Investment Industry Association of Canada
  • Loblaw Companies Limited
  • Ontario Aerospace Council
  • Ontario Chamber of Commerce
  • Ontario Mining Association
  • Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council

Observers:

  • Ontario Ministry of Economic Development
  • Service Canada

October 9, 2012 – Calgary, Alberta
Harry Hays Building, 220-4th Avenue Southeast

  • Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta
  • Building Trades Association
  • Calgary Catholic Immigration Society
  • Calgary Chamber of Commerce
  • Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council
  • Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
  • Canadian Federation of Independent Business
  • Construction Owners Association of Alberta
  • Dawson Seismic on behalf of the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors
  • Fluor Canada
  • Ledcor Construction Edmonton
  • PCL Builders Inc.
  • Petroleum Services Association of Canada
  • Standen’s Limited
  • Syncrude Canada Ltd.

Observers:

  • Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education, Government of Alberta
  • Service Canada

October 11, 2012 – Vancouver, British Columbia
CIC Vancouver, 800 Burrard Street

  • BC Construction Association
  • BC Film and Media
  • Business Council of BC
  • GO2 HR
  • Health Match BC
  • New Gold Inc. on behalf of the BC Mining Labour Shortage Task Force
  • PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc.
  • Retail Council of Canada
  • Simon Fraser University on behalf of Immigration Employment Council of BC

Observers:

  • B.C. Government
  • Service Canada

October 12, 2012 – Winnipeg, Manitoba
CIC Winnipeg, 25 Forks Market Road

  • Canadian Federation of Independent Business
  • HyLife Limited
  • Manitoba Chambers of Commerce
  • Manitoba Hydro
  • Manitoba Trucking Association
  • Peerless Garments
  • Regional Health Authorities of Manitoba

Observers:

  • Service Canada
  • Manitoba Immigration

October 25, 2012 – Halifax, Nova Scotia
CIC Halifax, 1741 Brunswick Street

Participants:

  • Acadian Seaplants Limited
  • Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association
  • Greater Halifax Partnership
  • Maritimes Energy Association
  • NTT DATA Canada, Inc.
  • Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia

Observers:

  • Nova Scotia Immigration

November 22, 2012 – St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
Delta Hotel and Convention Centre, 120 New Gower Street

  • Canadian Federation of Independent Business
  • Grant Thornton LLP NLBusiness Unit
  • Marilyn Butland Communications
  • Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Merit Contractors Association of Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Nalcor Energy
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Business Coalition
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Employer’s Council
  • Ocean Choice International
  • Professional Engineers and Geoscientists Newfoundland and Labrador
  • St. John’s Board of Trade

Observers:

  • Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Service Canada

Background Document

Reports and statistics

 
 
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