Online Consultation with Stakeholders and the Public

Methodology

On February 17, 2011, CIC launched an online consultation with stakeholders and the general public to seek views on the proposed changes to the FSW program. The consultation was open from February 17 to March 25.

An e-mail was sent to approximately 290 stakeholders inviting them to participate in the consultation and share the invitation with their networks. Stakeholders invited included representatives of national and local organizations such as industry and professional associations, private sector employers, chambers of commerce, immigration lawyers and consultants, and immigrant-serving, civil rights, ethnocultural and other non-governmental organizations. The general public was informed of the consultation through a prominently placed link on the CIC website, promoted in a news release and posted on the Consulting with Canadians website.

Participants were asked to read a background document and information presentation before completing the questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of a mix of multiple choice and open-ended questions that allowed respondents to provide further comment. The general public and stakeholders completed the same questionnaire, the only exception being the type of demographic information requested from the two different groups.

The findings summarized in this report reflect only the views of those who responded to the online consultation. These views cannot be projected to the overall Canadian population or CIC stakeholder community.

Respondents

The online questionnaire generated 497 responses from the general public and 35 from self-identified stakeholder organizations, for a total of 532 respondents.

The consultation was open to anyone in Canada, as well as people in other countries. Of the responses received from the public, 29% were Canadian citizens, 15% were permanent residents and 9% were temporary residents, while 47% indicated they lived outside of Canada.

Among the general public, 74% indicated that they were familiar with Canada’s immigration system. A total of 80% were familiar with the Federal Skilled Worker Program, and a further 93% indicated that they understood the selection process of this program.

Among representatives of stakeholder organizations, the majority who identified the nature of their organization (30 of 35) were immigration consultants (15 in total, or 50%), community organizations or employer/employee associations (each with 3 in total, or 10%). Other organization types were settlement/integration service providers (2 in total, or 7%), and business/professional associations (2 in total, or 7%). The organizations were divided between international (53%), national (9%) and local (13%) service delivery organizations. Respondents also identified as provincial or territorial organizations (9%) and regional (9%) organizations.

Key Findings

Responses from stakeholders and the general public were comparable on many issues. Overall, responses from the public did not vary greatly based on differences in their status and included individuals who identified as Canadian citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents, and those who indicated that they lived outside of Canada.

The following summary of findings presents the overall results from both the general public and those who identified themselves as stakeholder organization groups. Any notable differences or commonalities between stakeholders and the public or among subgroups of the public (i.e. individuals who identified as Canadian citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents, and those that indicated that they lived outside of Canada) are noted. Because of the small sample size of stakeholders, subgroup responses (i.e., type of organization, scope, location) are not reported.

Overview, Strengths and Weaknesses

Overall, a strong majority (84%) of respondents were supportive of making changes to the FSW program’s selection system. Comments received noted suggested improvements in the following areas.

  • Selection factors (38%) – Respondents provided input on a range of items related to the program’s selection criteria.  Suggestions received included placing more emphasis on language, focus on younger applicants, greater focus on a candidate’s adaptability or potential for integrating, and increasing points for work experience and education.
  • Operations (27%) – Respondents provided numerous comments on the delivery of the program, most notably decreasing processing times and clearing the backlog of applications, and comments on the authority of visa officers (perceived as too high). Respondents that identified as Canadian citizens expressed slightly less concern regarding processing times than those that identified as living outside of Canada. Moreover, stakeholders expressed a need for greater emphasis on credentials recognition.
  • Occupation classification (19%) – Respondents commented on the need to take employer and labour market needs into account in the development of the National Occupational Classification list. Comments also called for expanding access to the program, noting the need to reduce entry restriction based on profession, with emphasis on increasing access for the trades.

The strengths of the selection system were noted by nearly half (42%) of the respondents. Most cited the factors used to select immigrants as one of the main positive aspects of the program, noting that they serve as a good screening tool for selecting immigrants with varied skills and backgrounds. Respondents also noted that the system is transparent, measurable, objective and easily understood, and that it allows applicants to assess their own qualifications.

Weaknesses in the system were noted by more than half (59%) of the respondents, the majority of whom commented on operational items beyond the program’s selection system. Comments were largely related to processing times, the program’s backlog, and a perceived unfairness to applicants due to frequent changes or lack of continuity in the delivery of the program. Notably, out-of-country respondents offered more comments related to operations (comments were received from 32% of this group, versus 23% of similar comments received by respondents that identified as Canadian citizens). Respondents also observed a need to increase emphasis on language (particularly noted among Canadian respondents), expand the occupations list to better reflect labour market demand, as well as the need to place greater effort in assisting with credentials recognition and transfer (mentioned by stakeholders and out-of-country respondents).

Selection Factors

Respondents were asked to rank each of the six selection factors used in the program in order of importance when considering what is most important for an immigrant to succeed in Canada’s labour market. The responses were closely tied in many areas, with language and education most frequently ranked as most important, and arranged employment most frequently ranked as the least important.

The following chart indicates the breakdown of responses.

  Rank 1 – Most important Rank 2 Rank 3 Rank 4 Rank 5 Rank 6 – Least important
Education 27% 24% 21% 13% 11% 3%
Language
(abilities in English or French)
28% 26% 22% 14% 7% 2%
Work experience 18% 20% 23% 19% 14% 6%
Age 8% 13% 17% 23% 21% 17%
Whether applicants have arranged employment before arriving 8% 6% 5% 11% 18% 52%
Adaptability 11% 10% 11% 19% 29% 20%

The following is a summary of responses related to the proposed changes to the FSW program.  Responses among subgroups of the public were comparable, with no significant differences between respondents who identified as being Canadian citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents, or those that indicated that they lived outside of Canada.  However, in some areas, differences existed between responses from the general public and those provided by representatives of organizations (stakeholders), which are noted throughout. 

Language


Points distribution

A strong majority (75%) of respondents either agreed or somewhat agreed with the proposal to make changes to the language selection factor.  When asked to explain, respondents in support of the proposed changes indicated that language skills are important for success both in and out of the workplace.

As well, there was strong support (71%) for the proposal to increase the weight of the first official language proficiency from 16 to 20 points. Notably, fewer stakeholders (54%) expressed agreement with the weight increase proposal. Most were in agreement, however some respondents indicated that language was not essential for success, or that the first official language could be learned after arrival in Canada, particularly in the case of highly skilled applicants.

Minimum language requirements depending on occupation

Respondents were also favourable (68% in support) toward establishing minimum language requirements depending on occupation. Those in support indicated that different occupations (i.e., individuals in the medical profession versus those working in trades) have different language requirements and this flexibility was important to reflect the operational needs of different occupations. Respondents who were opposed stated that language requirements should be standardized for all professions, commenting that all skilled workers should have the same language proficiency, regardless of occupation.

Age

Maximum points to age 35, diminished points until age 49

When asked, in general, to comment on whether changes should be made to the age selection factor, half of the respondents (53%) expressed agreement. 

More specifically, support for the proposal to award maximum points until age 35, with diminished points awarded until 49, was closely tied (46% for; 44% against). Respondents in favour of the proposed changes noted that younger applicants would bring a greater economic benefit to the country over the long-term, and would have a higher potential to adapt, learn language and integrate into Canada.

Those opposed commented that older applicants are generally more experienced, more economically settled, will come with children, and therefore have higher chances of economic and integration success. Some also stated that the proposed age cutoff of 35 is too low, and that maximum points should be awarded up to age 40 or as high as age 50.

Points distribution

Just over half of the respondents (56%) agreed with the proposal to increase the weight of age from 10 to 12 points. Respondents in favour noted that younger applicants would have a greater economic benefit (more likely to find work), and that more points for age would help younger applicants reach the pass mark if they were short in other areas.

Of the minority opposed to the increase, most were from stakeholder organizations (40% compared to 24% disagreement among all respondents). Comments indicated that other factors such as experience, skills, and education were also deemed important.  Respondents also noted  that older applicants would generally have more work experience, which could make them more likely to succeed in finding meaningful work.

Education

Reducing the number of years of education required to claim points for a trade credential

When asked, in general, to comment on whether changes should be made to the education selection factor, more than half of the respondents (62%) expressed agreement, with notably stronger agreement (83%) among stakeholders.

Regarding the proposal to reduce the number of years of education required to claim points for a trade credential, more than half of the respondents (58%) agreed.  Stakeholders expressed stronger support for this change (71%).

Comments in support of the proposed changes noted general benefits for applicants and the labour market, indicating that the proposed changes were a positive step toward attracting talented applicants with a different set of qualifications than the existing points model accepts. Respondents also noted that the change recognizes international variances in education systems, including the varying lengths of post-secondary programs, and that the number of years of study is not important as some fields require only minimal training.

Stakeholders indicated that experience was more important than education and a better indicator of workers’ skills, noting the importance of allowing access to applicants who will be successful in finding work in their field. Respondents pointed out that changes to the education factor could improve access to Canada for skilled tradespeople, technicians and apprentices who have valid post-secondary qualifications but not the required number of years of study.

A preference for more highly educated applicants was most commonly mentioned by respondents who expressed opposition to the proposed changes to education. Some respondents who suggested that education is among the most important selection factors felt that there should be a direct correlation between points awarded and length of study (i.e., more points for more education), and that the years of study are an important factor in gauging the quality of education. Reducing the points could potentially devalue academics or those with higher education. Other comments noted that the larger issue is in accreditation and that the proposed change would not address this issue.

Work Experience

Points distribution and foreign work experience

When asked, in general, whether changes to the work experience selection factor were required, support was closely tied between those that expressed agreement (46%) and those that expressed disagreement (41%).  Similarly, regarding the proposal to reduce the total number of points that could be awarded for foreign work experience, close to half (48%) expressed support (37% disagreed).  The proposal to increase the range within which points are allocated for foreign work experience was met with moderate agreement—45% agreed, and just over a quarter (28%) disagreed.

Common themes were expressed related to each of these areas.   Respondents that expressed agreement generally commented that foreign work experience is frequently discounted by Canadian employers, and also indicated that other factors such as language or education are more important than work experience.

Those opposed stated that experience—foreign or domestic—is an integral factor for the screening of skilled workers, and the changes would disadvantage applicants with significant experience. Some respondents expressed disagreement with the notion that foreign work experience is not valued by Canadian employers, noting that there are certain occupations where foreign work experience is easily transferrable.

Respondents, particularly stakeholders, also noted that the changes to the work experience category do not complement those proposed for age, indicating that young people will have difficulty getting maximum points for work experience. Stakeholders also indicated support for changing the range of years required, but some expressed concern with the reduction in points for the work experience category.

Arranged Employment (AE)

Establishing clearer criteria for assessing the genuineness of a job offer

The majority (68%) of respondents agreed with the need to make changes to the AE selection factor, and were also supportive (72%) of establishing clearer criteria for assessing the genuineness of a job offer. Support among stakeholders was approximately 10% lower in both areas.

The reduction of fraud was the most common issue brought up by those in favour of making changes to AE. Respondents, particularly the general public (Canadians and non-Canadians alike), noted that fraud needs to be dealt with in order to maintain the integrity of AE and to reduce cases of individuals taking advantage of Canada’s immigration system. Others noted that applicants outside of Canada have difficulty in obtaining AE (expensive, difficult to coordinate from abroad, etc.). Improved screening in order to determine genuineness was also recommended. 

Others, especially stakeholders, commented that AE is an important tool in assisting skilled worker migration to Canada. Allowing newcomers to gain Canadian work experience upon arrival was cited as being a key factor toward a newcomer’s success. Noting lengthy processing times (up to 15 months) and employer or labour market demand, respondents opposed to the AE changes largely called on the government to expedite the application process to facilitate access to employers.

Employer attestation

More than half of the respondents (68%) agreed with the proposal to require employers to sign a document attesting to their intention to hire the immigrant. Of those in favour, respondents noted that it would be beneficial to introduce more verification procedures overall. Respondents commented that in the interest of protecting immigrants from fraud, it would be reasonable and acceptable to increase employer accountability and responsibility.

Those opposed, particularly stakeholders, noted that employer attestation is not necessary, stating that not only are employers unlikely to support this measure, it is doubtful that it would reduce fraud. Indicating that the process of hiring foreign workers is already perceived as complicated for employers, respondents called for more flexibility and increased access to AE for employers as opposed to adding what are perceived as bureaucratic barriers.

Enhancing the authority of visa officers

Half of the respondents (53%) supported enhancing the authority of visa officers to assess the validity of the job offer and the applicant’s ability and likelihood of being employed for the position. Opposition was greater among stakeholders, with close to half (40%) who disagreed (compared to 26% of respondents who disagreed overall).

Comments in support of enhancing the authority of visa officers indicated that this measure should be put in place to reduce fraud and protect applicants from employers who do not honour job offers. Respondents noted the importance of training and ensuring sufficient resources are available for visa officers to do this work well. Some suggested that this measure was acceptable as long as it does not increase processing times.

Respondents opposed, most of which were stakeholders, commented that the genuineness assessment of an offer of employment requires extensive expertise, and that visa officers are not sufficiently trained or do not have enough resources to undertake this work.

Other Comments

Respondents were given the opportunity to comment on the Federal Skilled Worker Program overall, and to provide any additional suggestions. Comments received, particularly from those who identified as individuals outside Canada, related largely to the backlog of applications. The majority of respondents called for improved processing times, as well as more transparency and open communication between CIC and applicants. Respondents called for clear and timely information on program changes, status of application and wait times.

Comments were also received related to the program’s occupation list. Noting that the categories of occupations are limited, respondents called for more frequent and flexible updates to the list, increasing the number of occupations in demand and varying occupations by region. Respondents also commented on the consultation process overall, commending the government for its openness and transparency in inviting stakeholders and the public to provide input on the program.

Reports and statistics

 
 
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