Canada launches new immigration program to fill ‘in-demand’ jobs


Immigration applicants with experience in any of five sectors could be selected for permanent residence through a new system designed to better align newcomers with Canada’s labour market needs.

On Wednesday, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser launched the highly anticipated “category-based selection” — better known as the “targeted draw” of skilled immigrants — which was first announced last June.

In additional to focusing on picking those with strong French language proficiency, the new tool will target those in the talent pool with a background in five key occupational sectors:

  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions;
  • Trades, such as carpenters, plumbers and contractors;
  • Agriculture and agri-food

In all, immigration candidates with a background in 82 occupations in these sectors will be selected through the upcoming draws, including nurse aides, orderlies, installers, repairers, servicers, truck drivers and agricultural workers.

“Everywhere I go, I’ve heard loud and clear from employers across the country who are experiencing chronic labour shortages. These changes to the Express Entry system will ensure that they have the skilled workers they need to grow and succeed,” Fraser said in a news release.

“We can also grow our economy and help businesses with labour shortages while also increasing the number of French-proficient candidates to help ensure the vitality of French-speaking communities. Put simply, Canada’s immigration system has never been more responsive to the country’s social or economic needs.”

The job categories have been determined following public consultations, as well as a review of labour market needs. A complete list of eligible jobs for the new categories is available on the immigration department website.

Currently, applicants for skilled immigration programs enter into the Express Entry pool, where they are given points and ranked based on attributes such as age, educational achievements, language proficiency, work experience and availability of a job offer.

Regular draws are conducted to invite those with the highest scores to apply for permanent residence. However, the system doesn’t allow the immigration department to overrule the ranking system and pick a candidate in an “in-demand” profession if the person’s score doesn’t meet the thresholds of those draws.

Immigration officials said candidates for the targeted draw must have six months or more of work experience over the last three years in one of the occupations listed for a given category, and only top-ranking candidates will be invited to apply for permanent residence.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of job vacancies in the fourth quarter of 2022 decreased by 78,600 or 8.2 per cent to 876,300, marking the second consecutive quarterly decline.

The number of unfilled jobs fell in 16 of 20 broad industrial sectors, particularly in accommodation and food services (-21,400) and administrative and support, waste management and remediation services (-15,800).

Job vacancies also fell in seven of 10 broad occupational groups, including trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (-22,200) and sales and service occupations (-20,100).

There were 147,300 job vacancies in health occupations in the fourth quarter, little changed from the record high reached in the third quarter.

Fraser said further details on the timing of invitations for individual categories and how to apply will be announced in the coming weeks.

As of May 24, more than 226,800 candidates were in the Express Entry talent pool with the majority of them having a score below 450 points. The maximum score is 1,200.

The immigration department was unable to provide data on the number of those candidates, who have an occupational designation eligible for the targeted draws expected this summer.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung


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