Manpower needs in resources development projects remain unmet. No less than 50,000 jobs remain unfilled, a figure that could double within 10 years. According to a recent study by the Conference Board of Canada, the solution would be to look across the border to hire qualified workers from the United States who specialize in the natural resources sector and energy needs.
The study published by the World Trade Centre of the Conference Board highlights the strategy implemented by the government of Alberta to recruit American workers and the lessons to be learned for other provinces. The Albertan work permit pilot project related to the profession, called the Alberta Occupation-Specific Pilot program, launched last year, has in fact enabled close to one thousand highly qualified people to be hired from the United States. This program’s objective is to fill the shortfall of workers on resource development projects, often very large and requiring a large workforce with specific skills. Why turn to Americans? Simply because they are workers with training and experience comparable to those of Canadians. In addition, they have the advantage of understanding the language and working culture of the country. However, despite the North American Free Trade Agreement, the qualifications and skills for regulated professions and trades are not mutually recognized by both countries. The Alberta Ministry of Apprenticeship and Industrial Training therefore intervened to provide its own assessment to recognize the skills and experiences of foreign workers.
Lessons to be learned for other provinces
Among the obstacles identified by the study for hiring American workers are the lack of easy ways to have them come and the specificity of resource development projects which are characterized by short and intense periods of activity in scattered regions. Finally, although the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program is intended as a temporary solution to a one-time shortage of skills, it doesn’t meet all the needs for manpower.
To allow qualified workers from the United States to enter, the Conference Board suggests taking Alberta’s initiative as an example. On the one hand, employers are invited to first seek candidates in Canada then to turn to foreign countries to compensate for the lack of qualified candidates in line with their specific needs. On the other hand, it suggested that governments, companies and unions unite to eliminate the barriers that are present for certification of workers by recognizing their credentials.