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Monday, April 30, 2012

Canada: Looking for Labor in All the Right Places

Looking for a job feels a bit like a dysfunctional dating game.  On one hand are companies that have positions to fill (or to create) and on the other are people looking for work.  As one of those unemployed persons I can attest to the fact that the game feels skewed in favor of the employer especially if one is living in the U.S. or Western Europe, regions that have relatively high unemployment these days.

Let's just admit that we may be fishing in the wrong ponds.  Believe it or not, there are actually places in the world that have a dearth of labor - skilled and unskilled - and these countries or sub-regions are not shy about actively recruiting people from abroad.   In these places industry and government are on the same wavelength:  industry wants workers and the government wants human capital.  In general, these countries prefer the young, the educated, the skilled but there are exceptions.  Some also recruit based on things like country of origin and language skills.  The only way to know if you have something in your skillset that matches their needs is to have a look.  And, in my view, the very first place to look should be Canada which not only has some extraordinary opportunities but also has an amazing apparatus for seeking out skilled workers all around the world who are willing to immigrate.

An excellent example of this is the province of Quebec in Canada.  Every year they openly recruit in Europe (with special attention to French-speaking Europe - Belgium and France) through job fairs called Journées Québec.  By putting together québécois employers and bright young Francophone Europeans they gather a good strong pool of candidates for industry who have a demographic profile they would like to see in their population.  They are not coy about their intentions which are spelled out quite clearly in their mission statement:
Par sa politique en matière d'immigration et d'intégration, le Québec, unique société de langue française d'Amérique du Nord, encourage la venue d'un grand nombre de francophones sur le territoire québécois.
(Through its immigration and integration policy, Quebec, the only French-speaking society in North America, encourages the arrival of a large number of French-speakers to their territory.)
Quebec is not the only province that does this kind of recruiting.  Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia have all signed agreements with the Philipines to bring in workers for the construction, health and energy industries.  British Columbia held its own job fair  in Manila in 2008 at the height of the world financial crisis.  Some of the Philipino workers who were targeted were already working abroad in the Middle East.  Other jobs fairs were held in Europe in 2011 to lure Irish workers and more are planned for 2012.  

And in a move that some Americans might find rather shocking, the province of Alberta is actively seeking skilled labor in the United States.  A few months ago the Premier of Alberta, Canada, Alison Redford, made a trip to Chicago and on the agenda was a recruiting drive to entice skilled U.S. labor to come to her province.  Alberta is targeting workers in U.S. cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Pheonix and Denver. 

The Alberta economy is booming and they project a need for 600,000 workers by 2021. The skills needed vary considerably from engineers, geologists and nurses to carpenters and plumbers. Have a look at the Calgary Economic Development study which has a list of the top 500 professions and the vacancy rates to get an idea of what they think they need.  Also see this fine video which talks about the economic forecast for Alberta.  Even if you have no intention of migrating, it's refreshing to hear about a place that has such a positive view of the future - so nice to hear some good news for a change:

In the search for global talent, Canada is second to none.  Other countries should take note of this especially those that have decided to be temporarily anti-immigrant for political reasons.  Not only do they risk losing the international race for labor (which they need whether they admit it or not) but they just might find their own citizens quietly leaving for greener pastures lured by a country that has something they can no longer provide:  opportunity, a positive view of the future and an warm invitation.


bubblebustin said...

The challenge we face particularly in the lower mainland of BC in attracting workers of all types is the high cost of real estate and housing in general. Look at what almost $1.224 M USD buys you on Vancouver's West Side, the area where most execs would prefer to live:,22,23,24,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,39,40,41,42,43,44,10105,853&SRTB=P_Price&ERTA=True&MNAGE=0&MXAGE=200&MNBT=0&MNBD=0&PTYTID=5&MNPRC=1000000&MXPRC=1500000&SCTP=RS
What makes matters worse is that compensation has failed to keep pace with Alberta. Alberta is in a boom right now thanks to the oil and gas industry, but that is contingent on getting the oil out of the highly polluting tar sands via pipelines that are facing considerable opposition both in BC and the US. Still, the lower mainland even with its incessant rain manages to attract those in Canada who wish to avoid those winters that the rest of Canada is forced to endure. Don't get me wrong, one can not do wrong moving to a great country like Canada, with our stable economy, great health care and high standards of public education. We are the world's best kept secret, often being passed over for the US. I suspect that is about to change.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Hi bubblebustin, Thanks so much for the comment and the link. Yes, that is a bit pricey. I agree with you that Canada is going to be one of (if not THE) top destination in the near future. MPI has a very good analysis of this and has warned the US that it will have to do more just to keep up. Frankly I am in awe of the sheer competence and organization behind this recruitment drive. The only other country that comes close is Singapore.

All the best,