Blog by: Heather Bell
In the past half-century, Vancouver has moved from a resource to knowledge-based economy that is highly entrepreneurial and ‘green’ focused. In 2007, it was designated one of the ‘Smart21’ cities by the Intelligent Community Forum in New York for its growing innovative and expanding high technology industry (WelcomeBC, 2011). The city also ranked in the top six of best entrepreneur cities among developed countries by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in 2008 (Invest in Canada, 2011).
Entrepreneurship is largely evident in the clean technology sector. This is a young, fast growing knowledge-based sector where 68% of the clean technology companies are small to medium sized and established in the past 10 years. This field alone was forecasted to grow to 8,400 employees in 2011, up 16.5% from 2010 (Simpson, 2011).
The growth of Vancouver’s clean technology sector is well aligned with Vancouver’s goal of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020. The city’s focus is to develop and expand eight different sectors, ranging from green buildings products, waste management and recycling, environmental consulting, sustainability sectors to education. Currently there are 12,000 jobs within these sectors and the government intends to double this by 2020 (City of Vancouver, 2011). Undoubtedly many of these new jobs will require workers from high-skilled areas such as science, technology and engineering.
BC has adopted provincial immigration programs that aim to address the growing labour concerns in these fields. “We are not graduating enough science-oriented individuals at the moment and we’ve got a great demand, and this is where the [Provincial Nominee Program] actually comes in really handy,” said Vancouver Board of Trade CEO, Iain Black (Carmen, 2011).
There are two programs that bring workers with natural and applied sciences backgrounds to BC under the Provincial Nominee Program. The first is similar to the federal skilled worker program, where foreign nationals must have a BC employer offering them a valid job within one of the skilled categories on the National Occupation List. The second program is a three-year pilot for international graduates of a masters or doctorate degree in the natural, applied or health sciences. These graduates are not required to have a job offer to obtain permanent residency. This pilot was implemented in 2010 specifically to address the province’s skilled labour shortage in these industries (WelcomeBC, 2011).
There are also temporary work permit options for skilled foreign nationals. All international students graduating from a recognized Canadian post-secondary institute are eligible for a postgraduate work permit valid up to three years. Employers can also sponsor a skilled foreign worker for a temporary work permit. The employer must apply for a positive labour market opinion (LMO) from Human Resource and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and prove that they have been unsuccessful in finding a Canadian or permanent resident already in Canada for the job. While these are temporary options, they can lead to permanent residency (CIC, 2011).
While recruiting international graduates and skilled workers can offer one solution to the province’s labour shortage concerns, it’s important that these programs are accessible to employers and provide a reasonable turnaround time in terms of application processing. Given that majority of businesses in BC are micro to small businesses, their limited knowledge or access to recruitment options, as well as their lack of time and resources, must be taken into consideration when the provincial government develops these programs. Educating employers about these programs is key, as well as making information and applications easily accessible to the small business owner.