Canada is in a unique position to attract the best global talent in a variety of fields – if it acts quickly and strategically.
That`s the opinion of two leading business figures, who say the time is now for the federal government to act to better equip the immigration system so the world`s best people can be brought in immediately.
Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech and Kevin Lynch, vice-chair of the Bank of Montreal, argue in an article for the Globe and Mail that Canada needs to get out into the worldwide market for skilled labour and let people know the door is open.
“It’s time to go prospecting for exceptional entrepreneurs, skilled talent and leading university researchers who, given a sales pitch and a choice, would consider relocating to a country that is politically stable, ethnically diverse and socially cohesive,” Klugman and Lynch write.
Immigration Minister John McCallum has made it clear that an improved, streamlined process for bringing in top international talent is high on his agenda.
Currently, the system is bogged down by the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment, meaning the process takes six months when businesses often need people immediately.
The avenues open to businesses include permanent workers under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), via Express Entry, or temporary workers under the Skilled Worker stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The latter was dramatically reduced in the numbers of workers admitted to Canada by the previous Conservative government.
McCallum`s proposals for changing the system are due to be announced in the fall.
But Klugman and Lynch want to push it one step further, by structuring a whole recruitment process around bringing in the best talent.
The pair point to political and economic uncertainty in the United Kingdom, United States, France and Germany, saying top talent in those countries is exactly who Canada should be trying to attract.
The U.K. is plagued with uncertainty following the vote to leave the European Union. Startups and entrepreneurs need a stable environment in which to operate, and the U.K. currently cannot provide it.
Meanwhile in the U.S., the uncertainty surrounds immigration, with the prospect of Donald Trump entering the White House and making it extremely difficult to bring in top talent. The country is currently not an attractive place for an immigrant.
“Canada is uniquely positioned to act,” the article continues.
“We value newcomers and what they have to offer. Our economy provides a reasonable degree of economic certainty in an uncertain and volatile world. And ours is a society with emerging entrepreneurial communities that have big aspirations – to build world-class innovation ecosystems and create world-class, innovative firms.”
The pair go on to call for significant investment in a sophisticated recruiting network that promotes Canada as the world`s ideal location for a stable and prosperous career.
Targeting talent from specific countries is vital, according to Klugman and Lynch, who want to see aggressive strategies put forward.
Companies themselves should also drop concerns over recruiting from abroad and make it a routine part of their business. Recognition of international qualifications is crucial. The world`s best talent will not want to arrive and immediately begin recertifying their credentials.
And central to the whole movement is making the immigration system “simpler and faster than the United States, Britain and Australia, our competitors for global talent, and make the relocation process easier and more attractive.”
To achieve this, the pair argue there needs to be a cross-society buy in from businesses, plus federal and provincial governments to modernise the system in favour of aggressively recruiting the best people, and quickly.
It has become clear that a growing need exists for Canadian employers. The Information and Communications Technology Council predicted recently that by 2019, 182,000 high-paying Canadian technology jobs would be vacant.
Carl Rodrigues, CEO of Mississauga software company SOTI, recently described Canada’s immigration policies as ‘archaic’ and called on the government to make changes to help companies grow.
The article finishes with a warning, that this moment in time is unique, as Canada`s competitors will return to stability and become attractive once more. It is for Canada to decide whether it has already left them behind when they awaken.
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