Challenges to Access Foreign Talent

Anyone following the dynamic immigration policies of the last few years will appreciate both the program complexity and frequency of change to the Temporary Work Permit process.

The Federal government is committed to ensuring Canadian workers have the first opportunity to fill all available jobs. While well intentioned there remain some employers who, despite high-localized high unemployment, simply cannot find the skills they need.

The process to recruit foreign employees has moved from a Labour Market Opinion (LMO), to a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), to the new on-line Express Entry model. Fees have also migrated; from zero fees, to $275 and most recently to $1,000, before reverting back to no-fee under the Express Entry approach.

According to Employment and Social Development Canada, the number of LMO’s received and processed has been in decline.  The number being declined on PEI, however, has been increasing. In 2011 there were 279 LMO’s received, 2012: 256 received, 2013: 200 received. Over the same period the number of negative LMO’s was: 2011: 13, 2012: 17, 2013: 35. As a percentage the declines are more pronounced in other regions; from October 2013 to April 2014 New Brunswick declines were 46 per cent and Alberta’s declines were 59 per cent.

So where are we today? Prince Edward Island’s unemployment rate for October was 9.2 per cent, which is moving downward. In the Atlantic region, there were 180 incomplete LMIA’s for the period of July – October 2014. Some employers are still unable to locate workers and the processing bottleneck is increasing.

The new Express Entry model does offer some reprieve for weary employers. Candidates wishing to enter the Canadian workforce can soon participate in an “express entry pool”. Employers can match their needs to the skills within this pool; if a prospective candidate has a high weighting to the position needs, a match is made. Prequalified candidates can get approved in weeks with no application fee.

With the level of rigors and penalties predicted to increase, perils will remain for employers wishing to access foreign employees. Employers considering hiring a foreign employee should be prepared for invasive compliance audits starting in 2015. Twenty five per cent of employers will be investigated and tested against twenty-one conditions.  Compliance may include reviews of employee transition plans, audit of performance reviews and exit interviews, and increases to administrative monetary penalties.

Currently, there are policies within the LMIA process which are not fully disclosed. Government directives on recruitment and advertising as well as transition plans are not fully available. Employers are, therefore, unable to effectively meet the expected requirements through a foreign recruitment process and changes to prevailing wage rates are frequent and without notice.

Employers will face increasing challenges to find qualified employees as the supply of labour continues to shrink. Today these challenges permeate our economy from the hospitality industry to biochemistry fields. For the year ending July 2014, there were 957 more Islanders leaving the province for other parts of Canada than were arriving. Employers challenges are only going to increase in a shrinking labour market.

The new Express Entry approach scheduled to be implemented in January 2015, does offer a new option; but like any of the recruitment methods, it is not without challenge. Seeking the advice of a professional is an important consideration if you wish to reduce time and expense throughout the process. Employers need to be informed and be prepared with a well considered HR strategy.