March 5, 2009
by Corinne Lynds, Senior Editor
Alberta manufacturers are having a hard time filling skilled-labour positions with Canadians, but a free provincial government initiative is helping them recruit foreign candidates with a streamlined immigration process. The Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) was launched as a pilot project in 2002 and processed about 100 nominees. Now permanent, the program was expected to handle roughly 2,500 nominations in 2008. Operated by the Ministry of Employment and Immigration in conjunction with Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Canada (CIMC), it expedites the permanent residency process by allowing employer applications for foreign students who have just graduated and workers in the transportation, manufacturing and tourism sectors.
Since the discovery of Alberta’s key oilfield in Turner Valley in 1914, the oil and gas sector has been the engine of the province’s economy. Nearly one in every six workers is employed either directly or indirectly by the energy sector.
“Even in these times of economic uncertainty, we are still looking to attract workers,” says Sorcha McGinnis, communications manager for Alberta’s employment and immigration ministry.
Investment in the oil sands between 2006 and 2011 is expected to exceed $50 billion, increasing the need for skilled labour.
“Over the next 10 years, Alberta could be short as many as 111,000 workers. We are experiencing shortages in all parts of the province,” says McGinnis.
“Alberta’s goal is to increase the number of workers entering the AINP to 3,000 by the end of next year, and further increase that to 5,000 by 2010 or 2011.”
Candidates plus their spouses and dependent children are eligible to apply for a permanent resident visa through CIMC as provincial nominees. CIMC expedites the application process and makes a final decision on permanent residency.
The process is different for each of the three application streams: family, self-employed farmer, and employer driven (which applies to Alberta manufacturers). Chemical engineers, energy professionals, mine service workers and petroleum engineers are among the most highly sought after skilled workers, while drilling workers, heavy equipment operators and machinery tool operators are most in demand in the semi-skilled category.