The application and adoption of social, mobile, applications, analytics and the cloud (SMAAC) and Internet of Things (IoT) in sectors such as health, manufacturing, natural resources, financial services and government services has created strong demand for highly skilled workers capable of implementing and managing these technologies. However, Canada is experiencing a shortage of skilled ICT talent, due to demographic shifts and not enough youth in the supply pipeline. Canada is not alone in this trend, and the global talent scarcity — compounded by increased labour mobility due to free‐trade agreements — will boost the importance of securing internationally educated professionals. This new reality means that Canada must continue to recognize and welcome immigrant ICT talent to address labour shortages and increase business’ innovation.
Immigrants are vital to our nation’s competitiveness and are helping to drive Canada’s digital economy. Currently, there are more than 350,000 (40%) immigrants employed in ICT jobs in Canada’s digital economy. About 96% are permanent residents or Canadian citizens and 4% are temporary workers. Permanent and temporary ICT immigrants enter the country via a number of different pathways and represent an important segment of the economic migrants coming to Canada. Since the 2008 global recession, the proportion of immigrants (permanent and temporary) in the digital economy has increased steadily each year.
Immigrants joining the ICT sector are a diverse and highly educated talent pool:
- Over three‐quarters of immigrants employed in ICT jobs have an educational background in ICT or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
- The top region of origin for immigrants employed in ICT occupations are China, European Union, and South Asia.
- More than 60% of immigrants employed in ICT are members of a visible minority group.
- About one in four immigrants employed in ICT is a woman.
Despite the importance of immigrants to Canada’s digital economy a number of challenges and barriers exist for efficiently attracting and integrating immigrants into the workforce. Fierce international competition for global digital talent, efficiency of the migration process, pending trade agreements skills mismatches and human resource practices impact the ability to rapidly integrate ICT newcomers into the workforce. A number of these obstacles impede our nation’s ability to effectively leverage the talents and benefits this group has to offer. Therefore, ICTC recommends:
- Policy makers should provide a temporary exemption for two years for specific high demand occupations identified by reliable labour market forecasts. This exemption should be capped to a certain number nationally.
- Policy makers should make temporary allowances for companies to hire above the cap limit in return for contributing financial support to developing the talent supply in Canada (quid pro quo policy).
- Policy makers and employers should prioritize the transition of higher skilled and high demand ICT Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) to permanent citizens as part of the Canadian Experience Class.
- That where Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) are necessary (for the non‐exempt occupations), policy makers should delegate the responsibility to labour market subject matter expert organizations to fast track the process for employers looking to hire global talent.
With regards to Express entry, ICTC recommends that:
- Federal and provincial policy makers should work with industry and labour market‐focused organizations to update labour market information and National Occupation Classifications codes used by immigration and workforce development staff for assessing the supply of and demand for emerging occupations.
- Federal policy makers should reinstate the expedited visa stream previously referred to as the Facilitated Processing of Information Technology Workers in order to allow skilled global digital talent to enter Canada quickly to fill immediate talent shortages high‐demand occupations.
Furthermore, devising policies, strategies, and programs, at the government and enterprise level, that eliminate the barriers immigrants face will allow for them to more quickly integrate into the ICT workforce. Therefore, we also recommend that:
- Policy makers should make available to small‐ and medium enterprises (SMEs) more resources that can help SMEs identify and address unconscious bias and build cultural competence within their organizations so that they can make the most effective use of all immigrant talent available to them.
- Industry, education and government should develop and promote targeted learning opportunities to attract female immigrants to ICT careers. This may include targeted industry‐driven awareness and community programs to attract this talent pool into high‐demand ICT careers and targeted scholarships to attract female immigrants.
- Industry and government should invest in offering more training and development opportunities to promote continuous learning, advancement opportunities, workforce upskilling, and enhance immigrants’ communication skills.
- Industry should employ inclusive and skills‐based recruiting techniques to overcome issues surrounding international credential and experience validation.
These recommendations form part of Canada’s National Digital Talent Strategy Digital Talent — Road to 2020 and Beyond designed to ensure Canada‘s talent will be well prepared to succeed as skilled workers and entrepreneurs in our increasingly digital and global economy.