On January 1, 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) launched Express Entry – a new immigration program designed to recruit immigrants who can meet the immediate demands of Canada’s labour market. The new system is a clear shift away from the old point system where the Federal Government had a significant role in bringing immigrants as national builders. The restructured point system now allows employers to play a larger role in the recruitment of immigrants to fill skills shortages. However, the increased role of employers in the selection of immigrants raises some concern.
Employers’ Role in Immigrant Selection
Express Entry ranks individuals using a point system, where out of 1200 points, 600 is allocated to those who have an arranged job offer. The rest of the 600 points are made up of age, language ability, education and Canadian experience. On February 2, 2015, CIC announced that 779 skilled workers were recruited from the Express Entry pool and invited to apply for permanent residency – all of them had an arranged job offer.
Candidates can obtain a job offer either through the Provincial Nominee Program or through the Federal Government’s Job Bank – a recently revamped Federal Government website that acts as a matching service between Canadian employers and potential immigrants. Candidates who don’t have a job offer are required to register with the Job Bank. It is expected that employers will gain direct access to the Job Bank later in 2015.
Small and Medium Business Enterprise Engagement
Since securing a job offer is of high importance under this new program, the success of Express Entry will rely on the extent to which Canadian employers are engaged. The larger businesses may already be aware and on board through Federal and Provincial employer networks as well as through Chambers of Commerce. It is the Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SME) sector that is of concern.
CIC has indicated that it will be conducting educational outreach to employers through the Employer Liason Network, but it is not clear how SMEs will be engaged as part of these outreach efforts. SMEs make up over 90% of the businesses in Canada and create over 80% of private sector jobs. It is clear that they are an important segment to have on board. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has also indicated that engagement with SME is crucial and has made several recommendations on how to help SMEs navigate the new system.
Unlike the larger businesses, SMEs don’t have dedicated human resource staff to access the Job Bank, manage the paper work to recruit someone, and to help integrate the new employee into the workplace. It would seem that given the prominence of SMEs in the Canadian business landscape, the success of Canada’s new immigration program is reliant on SME engagement.
Further collaboration is required by the Federal Government with the SME sector, especially in awareness creation and in providing the tools and resources to recruit potential candidates and bring them over once a job offer is made. There are many intermediaries that can help in these efforts such as Chambers of Commerce (Provincial, Local and ethnic) and Provincial, Regional and Municipal Governments as well as service providers. It may be the case that the Federal Government will need to seek out more innovative partnerships with stakeholders to penetrate the SME sector, but it would be well worth it.
An Inherent Bias: Henry over Hitendra?
The increased role of employers in Express Entry may also pose an inherent bias in immigrant selection. Canadian employers are looking to fill their immediate skills gap and are thus more likely to select a candidate who is deemed to be an easy fit within the company culture.
To ensure a seamless transition into the company, Canadian employers will be more inclined to select candidates who have similar work experience and cultural background. A study by Statistics Canada noted that immigrants with work experience from English-speaking countries (US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand) had a higher rate of recognition from employers. Another study revealed that those with English-sounding names have much higher call-back and interview rates than those with foreign-sounding names. This would seem to indicate that candidates from the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe have a leg up over candidates from other parts of the world.
How will Canadian employers choose to use Express Entry when given direct access to the Job Bank? Will they select Henry over Hitendra? Perhaps The Federal Government may want to help Canadian businesses take a closer look at their hiring practices – rather than viewing foreign sounding names and work experience as a weakness they should be seen as a strength, especially in our globalized world.
About the Blog Author
Dipal Damani is a Principal Consultant with D&D Inclusion Consulting. Her area of expertise is in the immigration and diversity field. She provides consulting services to non-profits, government and private sector clients. Dipal holds a Masters in Public Policy and Governance and a Certificate in Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies from the University of Toronto. She was a former Policy Advisor with Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and a Senior Policy Analyst with the Local Immigration Partnership at The Regional Municipality of York.