Ontario is so desperate for industrial painters, sewing-machine operators and electronic assemblers that it wants to throw open its doors to lower-skilled foreign workers, promising them permanent residency in exchange for taking up a job in manufacturing.
The catch is the newcomers have to work outside Greater Toronto.
As part of an expansion of a previously announced plan to promote immigration to smaller communities, the province on Wednesday released a proposed list of 13 manufacturing job categories that would qualify foreign workers for permanent status in Canada.
In the past, Ontario has granted an immigration pathway to lower-skilled newcomers in 10 occupations, including agriculture, construction and health support services, but no limits were placed on where the jobs could be. Under the program, employers could hire foreigners and recommend them as potential immigrants to the province. A majority of the workers ended up in the Greater Toronto Area. However, that failed to address labour needs elsewhere.
In December, Vic Fedeli, minister of economic development, job creation and trade, announced a pilot project to help spread the benefits of economic immigration across Ontario.
“Small and rural communities have expressed an urgent need for labour in certain local manufacturing businesses,” a ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday. “In our discussions, many noted that the occupations most in-demand were in manufacturing.”
And so this week’s proposed program expansion includes 13 new manufacturing job categories including products assemblers, finishers and inspectors; industrial painters, coaters and metal finishing process operators; industrial sewing machine operators; electronics assemblers, fabricators, inspectors and testers; and process control and machine operators in food, beverage and associated products processing.
Randstad Canada, a human resources service provider, just released a list of the top 10 most in-demand jobs in Canada in 2020 and four were blue-collar occupations: truck driver, welder, general labourer and heavy duty mechanic. The findings echo an earlier report by the Business Development Bank of Canada that identified manufacturing, retail trade and construction among the sectors facing the “strongest headwinds.”
Debbie Douglas of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants welcomed the proposed changes but said officials need to do more to help these newcomers stay in those communities.
“That’s where some of the work has to continue to happen. People stay in communities where their families feel welcomed, jobs with decent wages, good public schools, a faith community or other cultural supports,” Douglas said.
“Both the provincial and federal governments will have to support municipalities as well as the immigrant and refugee serving sector to build the communities where new residents will want to stay.”
This year, Ottawa has allocated 6,650 spots to Ontario to choose its own immigrants who can best meet local labour market needs. The province would like to double this quota in 2022.
The public has until March 2 to comment on the government’s amendments to the Ontario immigration program.
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