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Canada's most wanted: Semi-skilled workers

David Fuller discovers it is not only skilled workers that Canada is so desperate for

A recent article in Canada's Financial Post newspaper stated that the "shortage of skilled labour in Canada is reaching the point of a national crisis."

According to the newspaper, Canada's construction sector will need approximately 260,000 new workers over the next eight years, while it is estimated the mining industry will need around 10,000 people per year for the next ten years in order to stave off shortages.

It is not uncommon to read statistics such as this in the Canadian media, nor has it been for a good few years now. Indeed, it is because of the persisting skills shortages that Canada's immigration programme is currently so geared towards attracting skilled workers.

What doesn't tend to be so widely reported, though, is that industries deemed to be 'semi' or 'low' skilled such as trucking, food services, and tourism, are also in desperate need of workers.

As those of you familiar with the workings of Canada's federal Skilled Worker system will already be aware, in order to be eligible for emigration to Canada you need to have had work experience in occupations classed as Skill Level A (professional occupations) or B (occupations and skilled trades), or Skill Type 0 (managerial occupations) on the National Occupations Classifications list to be eligible for a visa.

This means people who only have experience in the aforementioned 'lesser' skilled occupations do not stand a chance of being awarded a federal skilled visa.

However, there are still opportunities available for workers deemed to be semi-skilled.

A number of Canada's provincial governments are realising that semi-skilled industry shortages could be as costly to their economies as those in skilled sectors, and have either introduced a semi-skilled stream (Alberta and BC) or a scheme designed to specifically target particular semi-skilled workers (for example, truck drivers in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick) through their Provincial Nominee Programmes (PNPs).

"Demand for semi-skilled workers certainly appears to be increasing," confirms Craig MacBride, the Public Affairs Officer at the Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development for British Columbia. "In 2006, BC employed 953,000 lesser-skilled workers, accounting for 45.5 per cent of the total workforce in the province, while in 2001, there were roughly only 806,000 lesser-skilled workers employed in BC • or 42.8 per cent of BC's total labour force. Therefore, during the period of the last two censuses, the number of lesser-skilled workers increased by 147,000 people," he adds.

What's more it is unlikely that there will be a decrease in the number of semi-skilled shortages in the foreseeable future.

"According to the 'Canadian Occupational Projection System • BC Unique Scenario', of the 1.1 million new job openings projected until 2015, 74 per cent will require a university degree or some form of post-secondary education," continues MacBride. "Twelve per cent of the new job openings will require some high school experience and 14 per cent will require high school

graduation. In absolute terms, there will still be close to 300,000 'low- and semi-skilled' jobs becoming available in BC during this period."

Upon announcing its 'Entry-Level and Semi-Skilled' PNP earlier this year, the BC government stated that current industry growth patterns reveal that the province's tourism/hospitality sector would require an additional 84,000 workers over the next ten years • or, to put it another way, one new job every hour over the coming decade. Little surprise, then, that this sector is particularly catered for through the scheme (see box, left).

In order to qualify for nomination, applicants must have been employed in an eligible occupation by a sponsoring company on a temporary work permit for at least nine months prior to the date of application to the PNP and must be legally employed by the sponsoring company at the time of application.
For more information, visit:

www.aved.gov.bc.ca/provincialnominee/strategicoccupations/entrylevel.htm

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