In December 2011, the British Columbia (BC) Immigration Task Force was established to review the Canadian federal and provincial immigration programs. The goal of this review was to increase the number of skilled immigrants and investors to British Columbia. Yesterday, the BC immigration task force released their findings. These are:
- The impact of economic development and an aging population are different across regions and industries. Current immigration policies and programs do not effectively respond to these differences.
- Current immigration levels are not enough to satisfy British Columbia’s labour needs. The province would like to immediately increase economic immigration and work more strategically with industry partners to identify labour and skills needs.
- Employers lack the knowledge of immigration programs available to them to recruit and retain foreign workers. British Columbia intends to provide one-stop access to information; provide timely access to information and processing of applications; and work with lawyers, consultants and other stakeholders to improve the transfer of information to employers
- Temporary workers are suppose to fill the immediate need of labour shortages, but the processing times are too long and the programs do not respond to business needs. Changes need to happen to the Labour Market Opinion Process, as well as the province expects to build strategic partnership to aid in the recruitment of workers.
- Employers and industries support a demand-driven economic immigration system. This would mean increasing the cap of British Columbia’s Provincial Nominee Program and the occupations listed under the Federal Skilled Workers program.
- More focus on permanently retaining international students in British Columbia is needed. One suggestion is to revise international graduate programs, like Canadian Experience Class or Provincial Nominee programs, so that graduates can apply for permanent residency without a job offer.
- Foreign entrepreneurs are valuable to our economic growth, yet not enough is done to attract them to British Columbia and support their success in business. There should be more facilitation of business succession planning by marketing business opportunities to foreign entrepreneurs and creating a mentorship program once they are here.
- British Columbia’s share of capital from the Federal Immigrant Investor program is not proportional to the number of investors in the province. Suggestions include increasing the minimum investment amount under the Federal Immigrant Investor Program; revise the investment allocation formula; and put in place measures to optimize the economic know-how of business investors for Canada’s success.
- Immigrant Settlement and Integration programs are essential. British Columbia will continue to fund settlement and integration programs and engage other stakeholders to improve these programs and make them accessible to all communities in British Columbia.
- There is a need to improve the recognition of foreign skills and qualifications. The suggestion is to create a review panel to further investigate this issue and for the province to help employers understand and evaluate foreign qualifications.
These findings support British Columbia’s commitment to improving and expanding the Provincial Nominee Program so to increase the number of economic immigrants that settle in the province. It also highlights the need for more provincial jurisdiction over the immigration process, as the Federal government programs do not effectively respond to regional needs.
So what happens next? While the report identifies actions to improve the Canadian immigration system, it is now up to British Columbia to implement the suggestions and engage various communities and service providers to assist in successful recruitment, retention and settlement of immigrants in British Columbia. A big question is how will the province reach out to the thousands of employers facing labour shortages, yet do not have the time or know-how to access the immigrant talent pool? This is where strategic partnership is crucial. The province will indeed need to reach out and connect employer associations, human resources, business and immigration experts, and community settlement providers so that employers are better informed and supported in their recruitment and retention efforts of foreign talent.
To read the full report, go to: http://www.jti.gov.bc.ca/immigration_task_force/