Immigration a labour solution
BY BRUCE JOHNSTONE, LEADER-POST SEPTEMBER 21, 2011
Saskatchewan's economic boom is coinciding with the retiring baby boom, creating a ticking timebomb that could stall the province's economic and population growth in the decades ahead, a local business group was told Tuesday.
One solution to the coming labour crunch is immigrant workers, particularly from the Philippines, where half the workers are fluent in English, most are welleducated, hard-working and reliable, according to Linda West, president of Actyl Group Inc., a Regina-based immigration consulting firm, and Marc Capistrano of Staffhouse International Resources, a Philippinesbased human resources company.
West and Capistrano, who spoke at a luncheon meeting of the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce, are partners in the growing business of providing skilled and semi-skilled labour for Saskatchewan employers, who are having difficulty finding and retaining Canadian-born employees.
West, who has a PhD in health management and an MBA, said demographic patterns are changing due to the retirement of the baby boom generation and the relatively small generation of working age people replacing them.
In addition, many Canadian young people are shying away from jobs in the service sector, leaving employers scrambling to fill jobs in the restaurant industry, for example.
Another area of rapid job growth is construction, followed by manufacturing. Skilled trades, such as pipefitters, sheet metal workers, welders and other 'red seal' trades, will continue to be in high demand as the economy ramps up.
Signs of the coming labour market squeeze are: wage inflation, project delays or cancellations and lower economic growth, West said.
"Our GDP is expected to get damped down by our workforce very substantively between 2015 and 2020-25 just because there will not be enough of a workforce. We're just seeing the beginning of the crisis, unfortunately. It's getting worse."
That's where the Philippines comes into the picture.
Capistrano said the Philippines' 400-year history of Spanish rule, followed by the U.S. occupation in 1898 has created an Asian country that is 90-per-cent Roman Catholic and 50-percent English speaking. And because Filipinos are generally hard-working, highly educated and reliable, they are employed in 190 different countries around the world as everything from labourers and technicians to highly skilled professionals.
But employers need to allow six to eight months minimum to get Filipino employees into the country due to Philippine immigration rules and restrictions imposed by federal immigration officials, as well as provincial programs, like the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP).
"There's a ton of paperwork, both here in Canada and in the Philippines,'' West said. "So we encourage you to get involved very early - six, eight, 10, 15 months out ... So the (immigrant workers) are ready to come, they already have their visas and you're just picking up the phone when you need them.''
If the workers are needed in less than six months, the applicants will have to be "multi-tracked. It will make your head spin. We'll be doing your paperwork ... and we'll be needing a lot of your attention very intensely at the beginning.''
West estimated Actyl has brought about 450 immigrants into the province in the last three years, but the demand in the years ahead will be in the thousands.
"The projection from the Saskatchewan Construction Association is 7,000 workers in the next two years."
Added Capistrano: "The numbers are staggering. One client of mine said they would need 6,000 workers in the next two years.'' firstname.lastname@example.org
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