|Construction Work (Photo credit: gullevek)|
With Canada’s construction market poised to become the world’s fifth largest by 2020, Ottawa has launched a new immigration stream to attract skilled trades workers.
The Federal Skilled Trades Program, which opens for applications Jan. 2, will help address labour shortages amid a construction boom on the eve of the 2015 Pan American Games in Ontario.
The new stream offers permanent residency to electricians, welders, heavy-duty equipment mechanics and pipefitters and is open to undocumented construction workers with a job offer or a Canadian certificate of qualification, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Monday.
“For the last three or four decades, it’s been virtually impossible for skilled trades people to immigrate to Canada through our skilled workers program because of its emphasis on academic training and formal post-secondary education,” Kenney said in Mississauga.
“Only 3 per cent of selected skilled workers actually were trained in these skilled trades. Yet, we have acute shortages in skilled trades.”
According to a report by the Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics, Canada will become the world’s fifth largest construction market by 2020, behind China, India, Japan and the United States.
“We are going to need 320,000 new (construction) workers by 2020 just to replace those who will be retiring and keep pace with the high demands we are currently seeing,” said Canadian Construction Association president Michael Atkinson.
“Half of the workers are going to have to come from foreign trained workers. We’d like to be able to meet all our labour demands with our domestic workforce, but it is just not going to be possible.”
Greater Toronto’s construction industry has historically drawn a lot of undocumented workers. Kenney said the new program will not exclude this underground workforce, but they must first leave the country and apply if they meet the program’s criteria, including basic language proficiency.
Kenney said the government is committed to expanding the program, but it will be limited to just 3,000 applications in its first year.