16 August 2006

Low skilled workers programme falls short of Canadian employers needs

Canada's Low-Skilled Workers Pilot project is not meeting the requirements of employers desperate to fill labour shortages, a new report has found.

The program was established in 2003 to help alleviate labour shortages in jobs that require a high school education at the most, and employers can only bring in foreign low skilled workers under the scheme once they have shown that attempts to hire Canadian nationals or permanent residents have proved fruitless.

Employers taking part in the scheme also have to find appropriate housing for and pay for the immigrant worker's return air fare.

The Canadian Bar Association report highlighted the major concern for employers is that the programme only allows for a stay in Canada of one year, sometimes barely long enough to complete training, and the problem for the immigrant worker is they are not allowed to bring their families with them and there is no route to permanent residency.

Speaking to the Fort Frances Times, Susan Nutt, who runs Alberta Bridges, a bridge maintenance and construction company in Pickardville, said she found the local workforce to be unreliable. She found the guest worker programme beneficial in solving her labour problem but felt it was unfair to separate families and found the one year work permit to be too short.

“Much of the year is just getting people trained, and safety is a big part of that. Then, just when you get everyone finally up to speed, you have to start all over again,” she told the newspaper.

Federal statistics show almost 22,000 temporary work permits were issued to low-skilled foreigners under a number of federal programs in 2003 and 2004, the last available statistics.

Many of the low skilled work permit holders had found employment in tourism, constuction and farming.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates 233,000 positions at all skill levels went vacant for at least four months last year at small- and medium-sized businesses across the country.

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