Program to attract foreign workers

The provincial and federal governments signed an agreement this week to bring temporary foreign workers to Nova Scotia.

By Torey Ellis

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Employers across the province are trying to attract foreign workers (Torey Ellis photo).

The provincial and federal governments signed an agreement this week to bring temporary foreign workers to Nova Scotia.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program allows Nova Scotian employers to hire foreign workers without needing permission from the federal government. It is meant to speed up the process of requesting and acquiring foreign workers.

A committee will be formed with representatives from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Services Canada and other governmental departments to create a set of criteria employers must follow in requesting foreign workers.

The public has often resisted to the idea of foreign temporary workers, says Michael Johnson, director of programs and corporate initiatives at Immigration Canada:

“It’s important for people to understand that, although it always seems like these foreign workers are taking Nova Scotian’s jobs, that is just not the case.”

Johnson explains that employers can only recruit and hire a foreign worker if no one locally is able or willing to do the job.

“Employers have to demonstrate that they’ve done everything possible to recruit a Nova Scotian,” he says.

This program hopes to attract workers for job placements around the province, says Johnson.

“It’s important for people to understand that although it always seems like these foreign workers are taking Nova Scotian’s jobs, that is just not the case.”
–Michael Johnson, Citizenship and Immigration Canada

“Where they’re working depends where the work is, where the projects are.”

Foreign workers are often requested when the job is highly specialized, according to Megan Edwards, the project leader of the agreement.  She is a senior policy analyst at Immigration Canada.

“The biggest example of this would be in oil and gas exploration,” she says. “Shell and Mobile had contracts here and workers here, but they had workers come here who have very specialized skills in the industry, who travel the world utilizing those skills.”

Other reasons foreign workers seek employment in Nova Scotia include not being able to find work in their home country and having their skills or credentials unrecognized at home but applicable here.

Most workers come from the United States, the United Kingdom and China, according to the 2010 Immigration Information Fact Sheet. The number of foreign workers coming into the province has increased by 87 per cent since 2005.

Edwards attributes that growth to the boom in oil and gas exploration.  According to her, a large portion of these workers have since left.

“The number of temporary workers are fluid: it increases and decreases with the demand of the employer,” she says.

There are currently around 3,000 non-Canadian workers in the province.

Temporary workers are eligible to stay in the country for four years but many request to stay longer, according to Johnson. Temporary workers can apply for permanent residence status after their work term.

But Johnson recognizes that temporary foreign workers are not a long-term solution.

Efforts are being made to educate Nova Scotians in the kind of work that needs to be done, says Sandy Graves from Employment Nova Scotia.

External links
Original Press Release
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Employment Nova Scotia

“I don’t think Nova Scotians are unable to do the jobs; it’s that our demographics are changing,” she says. “Everything we’re doing is based on how to align with the demographic.”

Nova Scotia’s population is shrinking and aging, and students are not getting training in skilled labour.  As a result, jobs are being left unfilled, says Graves.

Employment Nova Scotia offers career counselling and other services to unemployed Nova Scotians, as well as money to community organizations that helps citizens get schooling.

“As a province, Nova Scotian employers are struggling to attract workers,” says Graves. “Helping to prepare the working-class population for the jobs that are available, that’s what we need.”