Should Canada import more U.S. workers?

by | Oct 4, 2013 | News

By Sarah Stinchcombe

Despite a national unemployment rate of 7.1 %, the Conference Board of Canada said employers might want to consider hiring Americans for jobs in the trades.

The Board  released a report Friday examining Alberta’s recruitment of  US workers in the energy and resource sector and said there may be lessons there for other provinces in Canada.

Alberta allowed 1,000 highly-skilled Americans to work in the province in 2012 to make up for a shortage of Canadians trained in the trades sector.

Laura Dawson, the author of the report, said there is a high demand in almost all the Canadian trades.

“Short term, we need to import workers who currently possess the skills needed to complete the job,” Dawson said.

Dawson also stated American workers are not coming in to replace Canadians. Instead, they’re filling the spots needed, giving Canadian workers the time to be trained.

“Too few Canadian trade workers are available to work,” Dawson said. “Not every Canadian wants to go out of province to Alberta to do work, so that’s why we’re bringing in workers from all over the world.”

The report stated that by 2020 Canada will need 100,000 new mine workers.  According to the Conference Board, the shortage is due in large part to thousands of baby boomers retiring from the workforce without trained replacements to follow them.

More skilled people will be needed by Canada in 2020.  (curtesy of Wiki Commons )

More skilled people will be needed by Canada in 2020.
(curtesy of Wiki Commons )

There are many workers available in Canada but the report said  too few have the technical training and experience required by high growth sectors such as mining and construction.

Dawson said its primarily American workers being hired because the jobs are contract based. Dawson added the workers are usually under temporary work permits  for at least a year, but return to the United States once the job is done.

“This is a temporary solution, Canada needs to develop more trained workers in the skills trades,” said Dawson.

Ryan Alary, the campus director of the North American Trade Schools, said enrolment in the program is staying at a steady pace.

“We usually have about 300 students enrol, and this year we saw about 100 more on the London campus,” Alary said.

Alary said the most popular programs at the campus are welding and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, areas that Dawson pointed to as in need of more skilled tradesmen.

“Both welding and the H VAC program are tickets programs,” Alary said. “The students earn their tickets through the 50 week course they take through the school.”

Alary said that once the students finish the program they can obtain an entry level position in their field.

“Students, depending on their personal circumstances, would obtain a better position if they were willing to travel (out of province) to work,” said Alary. “However, we are almost always able to get them a job locally.”