Skilled workers find their place

Need a doctor? Call a cab.

People always joke about South Asian doctors driving cabs and Chinese engineers running convenience stores.

Well, not for much longer.

Coming next year, new policies recently launched by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) — the Canadian Experience Class — will encourage temporary foreign workers and international students to apply to emigrate.

The new class is under the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement, and it plans to take between 10,000 to 12,000 immigrants.

Unlike many new immigrants, these newcomers are not exactly “new.” They have either worked in the country before, or have acquired degrees from Canadian schools.

Such qualifications will ensure employers looking for domestic experience will be satisfied by what they see on these resumes.

This should have been done long before. Canadian universities and colleges graduate thousands of international students every year, but a lack of incentive for these well-trained individuals to stay in Canada has them leaving for greener pastures.

Along with the Canadian Experience Class, Ontario got its own provincial nominee program this May.

Qualified employers in Ontario can nominate potential workers. Once approved, the workers receive permits to work in the province.

Another application for permanent residency is then sent through the provincial government to the federal immigration department.

Workers and their family members will skip the federal immigration selection process and may get their residency status in months, while other skilled worker applicants will have to wait for years.

Immigrants who applied through the provincial nominee program are another group of workers who don’t have to worry about finding a job. They are hand-selected by their employers, so they are hired even before they earn the right to reside.

This year, Ontario will nominate 500 workers.

These two new policies, however, did not make everyone happy. Immigration lawyers pointed out that the total number of estimated immigrants in 2008 remained the same as in 2007. CIC cut about 30,000 immigrants from the class of skilled workers while it added the Canadian Experience Class and the provincial nominee program.

The country has taken in large numbers of skilled workers in the past few years: 105,949 in 2006 and 130,242 in 2005. These immigrants are undoubtedly talented and well-trained.

However, after we give them the warmest welcome, we leave many of them struggling in the employment market. Some are refused because they don’t have the elusive “Canadian work experience,” while others fail because of the low demand for their profession.

Then why should we import more foreign-trained workers when we know our employers won’t stop asking for local experience? Why should we continue taking in more immigrants when we are not sure if their skills are still needed here?

That’s why the two new policies make sense. The first one welcomes those who have worked or studied in Canada before. They do not even need the government to provide settlement services to them because they have already adapted to Canadian life.

The second one encourages the employers to choose the exact workers they want, so our province is able to bring in immigrants suited to our particular needs.

To hand pick our immigrants is necessary. It ensures that we are only taking in the immigrants we really need. By doing so, we are being responsible to them and to ourselves.