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Job shortage in Canada: More employers willing to overlook lack of work experience among int’l students

Employment in Canada for international students
Job vacancies in Canada have surpassed the one million mark since the beginning of March 2022. Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

The labour shortage in Canada has shot up to an all-time high of over one million vacancies, and the government is looking at foreigners to fill them. This could bode well for international students seeking employment in Canada, especially those eyeing long-term settlement to obtain permanent residency.

In a report published on May 26, Statistics Canada noted that up until the beginning of March 2022, Canadian employers have been scrambling to fill 1,012,900 vacant positions across the country — a 60.5% increase compared to the same time period in 2021.

The top three industries that have been gravely affected by the skill shortage include:

  • Accommodation and food services (158,100 vacancies)
  • Healthcare and social assistance (154,000 vacancies)
  • Retail trade (109,200 vacancies)

Meanwhile, the healthcare and social assistance sector continues to experience climbing employee shortages. It reached a record-high vacant positions at 154,500 in March 2022, up by 16% from the previous month as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, job vacancies rose in all provinces, with British Columbia registering the most vacancies at 178,300. 

Employment in Canada for international students

The food services and retail industries were hit hard by worker shortages as a result of pandemic closures. Source: Angela Weiss/AFP

Employment in Canada: More willing to hire inexperienced workers 

Canada’s labour shortage problem and its increasingly ambitious immigration project for the coming years might seem like a boon for overseas students on paper. Yet, the reality of securing skilled employment in Canada that would count toward PR points is tougher to navigate, especially with the current 2.4 million backlog in immigration applications. 

Even so, the Canadian government has several pathways lined up for international graduates to gain work experience and better qualify for a PR — and some employers are on board to make the transition smoother. 

Just last week, a new study revealed that more Canadian employers are willing to overlook a worker’s lack of experience with the current competitive job market. The poll surveyed 1,000 employers throughout the country, and found that 77% value soft skills and a willingness to learn rather than job-related knowledge. 

With an ageing population and low birth rates, the Canadian labour market is facing a crisis in the pool of available skilled workers. “Canadian employers care more deeply about what the person can contribute to the team in terms of their attitudes versus what skills they have that they’re bringing into the role,” Michelle Slater, the director of online job board Indeed Canada, was quoted saying to CP24 News. 

“It means that individuals who might not have that hard skill on their resume could still have an opportunity to get the job of their dreams,” she added. 

From the survey, it was found that the most in-demand skills are digital and information technology skills, project management, engineering, as well as software development and coding skills. 

Pathways to employment in Canada

If you’re an international student considering work opportunities in Canada, there are several new programmes introduced that could prop up your chances to work and settle in the country permanently:

Get an open work permit

In an effort to extend the eligibility of post-graduation work permit (PGWP) holders as they await the outcome of long-term immigration plans, the government has offered a temporary open work permit to allow them to continue their employment in Canada. 

Those with PGWP expiring between Sept. 20, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2022 are eligible for the permit, which will grant them 18 additional months to legally live and work in Canada while they continue their bid for a PR. 

Use the Express Entry system

The much-awaited resumption of the Express Entry system will open this July, after it was halted in 2021 due to application backlogs. It is Canada’s main online management system to attract skilled foreign talent, and admits newcomers under a points-based system in three economic class categories: the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Worker Programme (FSWP), and the Federal Skilled Trades Programme (FSTP). 

The system will likely face some changes if Bill C-19 is approved soon. The bill will confer more powers for the immigration minister to control the selection of the Express Entry system, where candidates could be selected based on current economic and labour needs over their PR scores. 

Employment in Canada for international students

The Express Entry system is the top pathway for skilled workers to attain permanent residency in Canada. The programme will resume in July this year after it was temporarily suspended in 2021 due to immigration backlogs. Source: Rijasolo/AFP

Apply through the Provincial Nominee Programme (PNP) 

Aside from the federal-run Express Entry programme, prospective Canadian PR hopefuls can opt for the Provincial Nominee Programme (PNP), where the provincial government elects foreign candidates with job offers for a PR. A total of 11 provinces offer PNP to foreign applicants, and you must apply with the express intention to settle in the province of your choice long-term. To know more about the PNP and the labour market by province, click here

Consider studying in Quebec

Those keen on finding employment in Canada after graduation will do well to consider Quebec as a study destination in the future. The province announced last month that it will offer domestic tuition rates to full-time overseas students enrolled in French-medium programmes outside of the Greater Montreal area. 

The move is a strategy by the Quebec government to drive immigration to regional areas in the province and fill worker shortages in key industries. The sectors identified as “priorities” so far are information technology, engineering, health and social services, education, and educational childcare services, so Francophone graduates in these industries might stand a better chance for a PR if they meet all eligibility requirements.