The Government of Alberta announced changes to the province’s Alberta Advantage Immigration Program on Jan. 18, that re-allocates express entry stream nominations to immigrants with skills in demand.
The government will be allocating 25 per cent of the express entry stream nominations as part of the program towards potential immigrants with both skills in demand, and already existing family connections in the province.
Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Rajan Sawhney, said that this would work out to approximately 815 people for 2023, assuming no additional nomination certificates are allocated by the federal government.
The federal government will issue 6,500 such certificates in 2022.
“We believe that immigrants with strong family connections in Alberta will have stronger support to help them navigate and integrate into life here than they would without family connections,” said Minister Sawhney.
“This is why we will be focusing on this connection combined with demonstrated experience in in-demand occupations.”
Among the occupations listed by the minister as being in demand include the tech sector, hospitality, tourism, agriculture, and construction industries.
Minister Sawhney said that the government is committed to working with its federal counterparts to significantly increase the number of immigrants to the province.
She said that she had recently spoken to the Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Sean Fraser, to return some elements of the family reunification through immigration plans back into the hands of the province.
“That is why we are using the existing parameters in our program to try to ensure that we can get family members here through our existing streams. It still remains within the federal domain, but I will keep asking whenever I get the opportunity,” she said.
The Government of Alberta and the Canadian government closed the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program in 2013 in favor of one that consisted of direct labor and market ties.
Good first step to address badly needed construction workers, said industry group
The Calgary Construction Association called the government’s changes a good first step to address what they say is a large shortage of construction labor in the city.
“I think it’s important that the Government of Alberta recognizes just the magnitude of what the labor shortage is,” said Frano Cavar, Director of Government Relations for the Calgary Construction Association.
“We have 93,000 construction job vacancies across Canada, and every subsection of the Canadian construction industry is looking to attract more talent.”
He said that the government taking steps to fast-track getting good quality construction workers to the province is important.
“We know that in the Calgary region alone, that the current amount of vacancies is estimated between anywhere between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs,” Cavar said.
Among the factors the industry group has identified as causing the labor shortage are record migration to the city, an aging workforce retiring out of construction jobs, insufficient levels of young people taking up construction careers, and a lack of in-school programs like woodworking and metalworking.
The outcome from a lack of labor on projects as small as homes to as large as multi-million dollar buildings has been that build times are increasing, resulting in increased costs for builders, consumers, and project owners.
“Actually having the workforce there is really the key factor I would argue that leads to seeing that these projects are completed on time,” said Cavar.
He said that the organization was in Ottawa several months ago, speaking to the federal government on the issues.
“Immigration is one way to alleviate this problem by reworking the immigration point system to one that favors construction skills and experience,” Cavar said.
“Getting people who are qualified in, getting them through the accreditation system, or at least updating the accreditation systems so that they’re not stuck in limbo, so that they’re able to access these well paying jobs right away I think is very important.”
Minister Sawhney said that the government is working to address the issues around accreditation, and that they’re working with groups like the Alberta Medical Association for medical staff, alongside other bodies to better recognize international credentials.
“Unfortunately, these things do take time, and we don’t have the luxury of waiting another decade to do this, I can tell you there are many conversations behind the scenes that are taking place to ensure that we get on top of this, ” she said.