Last Updated on septembre 28, 2021
Ottawa needs to bolster the image of Canadian trades workers and try harder to recruit immigrants to resolve the severe labour shortage as tradespeople retire, concludes an RBC Economics and Thought Leadership report.
“The federal government and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) should close the gap between the target and actual intake of immigrants in the skilled trades by more aggressively promoting Canadian trades in source countries,” wrote RBC’s Naomi Powell and Ben Richardson in that report.
“They must counter the stigma of trades as ‘lesser-than’ in these countries and among newcomers, and ensure immigration caps on individual trades are responsive to the market.”
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Although immigrants comprise more than 21 per cent of the Canadian population, they only accounted for about 8.7 per cent of the apprentices in trades programs IN 2018.
Ottawa Falls Short Of Skilled Trades Targets
“Despite setting a goal to bring in 3,000 skilled tradespeople annually through immigration, Canada admitted just 2,365 such newcomers in 2019 through the Federal Skilled Trades Program,” the two state in their latest report.
“In some trades still facing severe shortages in the market (such as carpenters) Canada limited the number of eligible tradespeople to just 100.”
The paucity of immigrants in the trades in Canada is particularly baffling because businesses are being encouraged and have undertaken programs to hire more minorities, women and members of the LGBTQ+ communities and members of the First Nations.
With more than 700,000 skilled tradespeople expected to retire in the next six years, industry in Canada is getting desperate to recruit more people into these high-paying jobs which often come with great benefits packages.
‘Blue-Collar’ Jobs Pay Well, Offer Great Benefits
In their report, Powell and Richardson note the trades have long gotten a bad rap. These jobs are still dubbed “blue collar” work and seen as involving heavy, dirty physical work best suited to students who lack the aptitude for “white-collar” careers.
Modern health and safety standards in Canada, though, limit the amount of lifting needed in many trades and the salaries for these jobs often outstrip those of professionals.
“The median income for pipefitters and heavy-duty equipment technicians with four years’ certification surpassed $100,000 in 2018; electricians earned between $80,000 and $90,000,” notes the report. “What’s more, intellectual aptitude is frequently identified as a critical requirement for the trades – particularly as technological transformation makes a lifelong upgrading of skills necessary.”
Skilled workers who want to immigrate to Canada can often avail themselves of the Global Talent Stream (GTS) of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) through which Canadian work permits and visa applications are processed within two weeks to fill labour shortages.
This past summer, the lack of tradespeople in Canada was so severe that many companies were forced to turn down contracts.
Lack Of Tradespeople Forcing Companies To Turn Down Contracts
“We work our whole lives to be at this point and now we have got to say no,” Jonathan Denton, owner of Little John’s Renovations in Moncton, reportedly told Global News in June.
The contractor was then turning away roughly 20 per cent of the business coming his way during a construction boom because he couldn’t find enough skilled workers.
Business leaders in the Atlantic Canadian province of New Brunswick were quick to offer up a solution.
In August, they sent a clear message to federal politicians on the campaign trail: boost immigration.
“Whichever party forms the government must prioritize policies and investments that enable businesses to access talent and capital they need to recover and grow,” said Alex LeBlanc, chief executive officer of the New Brunswick Business Council in a press conference.
Business leaders in New Brunswick want Ottawa to simplify and speed up the overall process of immigration with an emphasis on streamlining and accelerating pathways for international students.
And to ensure the immigrants who arrive in New Brunswick stay there and settle down, the business community also wants Ottawa to put more money into settlement services and initiatives for welcoming communities.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, it is crucial that the next federal government make the right investments, put the right policies in place to ensure sustained growth for New Brunswick and the entire Atlantic region,” said John Wishart, chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Moncton.