London employers want Ottawa to think fast and move faster to open Canada’s borders to immigrants with in-demand skills.
A new report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the London Chamber of Commerce says the federal government should treat as customers both businesses and skilled foreign nationals and cut the time it takes to process an immigration application.
If that doesn’t happen, Canada and this province in particular could fall behind in the global race for international students and skilled workers.
According to the report, Think Fast: Ontario Employer Perspectives on Immigration Reform and the Expression of Interest System, the changes proposed for Canada’s immigration system would require an application be processed within six months. In Australia, the window is 58 days.
“Faster is key,” London Chamber CEO and general manager Gerry Macartney said. “Other jurisdictions are positioning themselves and they’re more likely to attract talent.”
He said the retraining of Canadian workers is also important but there are sectors of the economy that have very specific needs for employees.
“There are digital gaming companies today looking for particular individuals that are only available in some cases from other countries,” Macartney explained. “The system is too slow to react to the need.”
Kapil Lakohita, interim general manger of the London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), said he hears about talent attraction across all sectors of the economy.
“All companies express challenges so anytime we can help support a faster, streamlined immigration system it would help the London economy tremendously.”
In broader terms Macartney and the Ontario Chamber welcomed the reforms, to come into effect in 2015, which will give employers a key role in selecting future Canadians through job offers. In the new system, many immigrants will have jobs before they arrive in Canada.
“This is what small- and medium-sized businesses have been waiting for,” Macartney said. “The new system removes employers from the sidelines of the immigration system, positioning them as active drivers in the global competition for talent.”
The report includes 13 recommendations and was partially based on information gathered at a series of roundtables, including one at the London Chamber, with Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Michael Coteau.
“Combined with efforts to retrain domestic workers, the 13 recommendations (would) go a long way towards closing the skills gap in Ontario that continues to plague our competitiveness.”
To read all 13 recommendations, download the report at: www.occ.ca/portfolio/ontario-employer-perspectives-on-immigration-reform-and-the-expression-of-interest-system