U.S. workers could help plug skills gap: Report

Alberta seeking Americans to work in resource projects
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 10/04/2013

Labour-starved employers should take a short look south to American workers, according to a study by the Conference Board of Canada.

Alberta, which faces the most severe skills shortage in Canada, launched a pilot project that brought nearly 1,000 highly skilled U.S. workers into the province. The province has been at the forefront of a strategy to recruit U.S. workers, particularly for resource projects, but Saskatchewan and Manitoba are also increasingly facing labour shortages, said the Conference Board.

“With 50,000 unfilled vacancies and more than double that number expected within a decade, the labour and skills shortage has a direct impact on Alberta’s ability to develop its resource and energy sector. That is not just a regional problem, it affects our national economic prospects as well,” said Laura Dawson, author of Skills in Motion: U.S. Workers May Hold the Key to Canada’s Skills Shortage.

Highlights of the report:

•There is no simple mechanism to bring in U.S. workers

•Resource projects require quite different approaches to workforce planning because they involve short, intense bursts of activity in geographically dispersed regions.

•The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a band-aid for skills shortages, but it is not a panacea or long-term solution.

Many Alberta employers consider U.S. workers to be ideal to fill Canadian vacancies because they have comparable training and experience. In addition, they understand the language and work culture, can enter Canada without a visa and live nearby, said the Conference Board. Nevertheless, it’s not an easy process. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement does not allow mutual recognition between Canada and U.S. for regulated trades and professions.

The Alberta Occupation-Specific Pilot was launched in 2012, and has already allowed nearly 1,000 U.S. workers to enter the province. Alberta’s Department of Apprenticeship and Industry Training has stepped in to provide its own evaluation of workers’ foreign credentials and experience.

The province has launched a recruitment campaign south of the border, said the Conference Board. Alberta employers are also targeting Canadian and American veterans of the armed forces.

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