By 2020, British Columbia estimates to have 1 million job openings, most of which will be available within the next three years. According to Dave Byng, B.C.’s Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, it will be necessary for the province to look overseas to fill these positions.
Today, there are 47 projects that are worth half-a-billion dollars on the books, said Byng. Three quarters of the work is located in the north of the province and is in the liquefied natural gas sector. The projects will require a big labor force and will create two streams of jobs, in construction and operations.
Byng explained that the jobs in the construction stream will likely be temporary, peaking in 2016 and narrowing down by 2018. By contrast, the operations jobs will likely be longer-term and will come online as the projects are built.
The government’s priority is to grant B.C. residents priority at tackling these newly created jobs. This involves ensuring that schools and post-secondary institutions produce graduates who are qualified for these positions. According to Byng, since employers in the LNG industry require quick access to specific skill sets, the go-to candidates will be temporary foreign workers, especially for the construction jobs. Nevertheless, Byng predicts that there will be shortage of workers in the province, forcing the government to look for workers across the country. Several Eastern Canadian provinces have already expressed interest in sending their own workers to B.C, he said.
Addressing the recent controversy surrounding the Temporary Workers program, Byng said, “…The reality of it is, if we look at the projects that we’ve got going here in British Columbia, there will be a continued need and demand for access to temporary labour both from across Canada and from outside our borders.”He added, “you’ll most certainly see the province speaking from that perspective and working hard to ensure… access to temporary foreign workers.”
To facilitate this process, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced changes to the federal programto be enforced next year. Skilled workers with job offers in Canada will be brought in within 6 months, allowing British Columbia to exceed its federally-imposed quota of skilled workers under the provincial nominee program.
The “Expression of Interest” system for selecting skilled workers that will become permanent residents will be in effect January 1, 2015. Employers will be able to select workers from a pool of candidates that are assessed according to a points system. Candidates whose occupations are most in demand will have their applications processed first, rather than those who apply first.
According to Alexander, this will ensure that the program is responsive to employers’ needs.“Those with a job offer, when a Canadian is not found… will have an almost automatic claim on our immigration system,” he said.