* Canada looks to alleviate shortage of skilled labor
* New program to ease rules for skilled workers
* System enlarges role of employers
CALGARY, Alberta, April 10 The Canadian
government said on Tuesday it will ease immigration rules for
skilled workers as it looks to alleviate labor shortages in the
oil, mining and construction industries.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the government will
modify its Federal Skilled Worker Program, which has been skewed
towards professionals, to try to attract trades people and other
skilled workers that are in short supply in Canada during the
current commodities boom.
The new system will also increase the role of employers in
the immigration system, allowing them to fill vital jobs faster.
"In the past it would be virtually impossible for skilled
trades people to get past our rigid economic immigration
programs," Kenney said in a speech to a Calgary business
audience. "They would need post-secondary degrees and high
levels of language proficiency. This meant ... skilled workers
couldn't get in."
Kenney said the new program will be based on job offers from
Canadian employers that can show that the would-be immigrant has
credentials and experience equivalent to Canadian certification
Immigrants admitted under the new plan would not be required
to be as fluent in English or French as professional applicants
must be, though some language requirements would still apply.
According to ministry data, skilled workers currently make
up just 3 percent of all foreign skilled workers emigrating to
Canada. Kenney said he expected the new rules to attract
"several thousand" skilled workers initially, and then become
"Over time, if there's sufficient demand from Canadian
employers, it could grow into the tens of thousands," he said.
High prices for oil, metals and minerals have sparked an
investment boom in Canada, squeezing the available supply of
skilled labor and forcing employers to import temporary foreign
labor to fill staffing gaps, a measure that Kenney said may be
less needed as more skilled workers emigrate to Canada.
"The temporary foreign worker program is there for acute and
short-term labor shortages and that will probably always be in
some demand," he said. "But I hope that by better linking the
permanent immigrants with labor shortages there will be less
dependence on the temporary foreign program."
The government expects the new program to be in place later
(Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Peter Galloway)