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News Releases


New immigrants hold key to Canada's prosperity, according to RBC's Nixon

Vancouver's Labour Challenge a Microcosm for the rest of Canada

VANCOUVER, May 10, 2006 — Staging the Olympic Games, a runaway housing boom and the need for new infrastructure could create a perfect storm for Vancouver in terms of labour shortages, according to Gordon M. Nixon, president and chief executive officer, RBC Financial Group, who was speaking today at The Vancouver Board of Trade.

"Demographically, you can see where this is going," Nixon said. "There will be about one million job openings in B.C. in the next dozen years, and we don't have enough young British Columbians in the pipeline to fill these jobs. Immigration will play a vital role in filling the gap, so we must do everything we can to help immigrants integrate into the work force so they can reach their potential."

Nixon's remarks, entitled "Canada's Diversity Imperative: 2010 and Beyond," outlined how immigration will be critical for Canada and that attracting the right mix of skills and capabilities will be essential. "If Canada is to succeed in the global economy, we must ensure that the whole country has a capable workforce. And it's not just about skilled workers for the construction and oil industries…. this is about leveraging human resources in all areas of the economy."

The Council of Construction Trade Associations predicts that about 40,000 new trade apprentices will be needed just to complete all the construction projects planned around Vancouver for the next ten years. And with Alberta predicting a shortfall of as many as 100,000 workers over the next ten years, competition for labour will be fierce in the West. "This is a harbinger of what awaits the rest of Canada," said Nixon.

While Nixon suggested that Canada needs to ensure it is a destination of choice for skilled immigrants, the country need look no further than its own backyard and tap the existing potential of the current workforce. "Canada is closer to being a model economy when it comes to integrating immigrants than any other country in the world," Nixon said.

However, evidence suggests that today's immigrants are having a harder time adjusting than previous generations, and the lack of inclusion of minorities and second generation immigrants is causing both social and economic challenges. "While our politicians love to brag about the success of our multicultural society, we would be better off acknowledging and addressing our challenges, or we will pay a price in the future," Nixon added.

Statistics Canada recently reported that immigrants to Vancouver find it harder to get jobs than anywhere else in Canada. The employment rate for immigrants in Vancouver is 61 per cent and only 44 per cent are in jobs for which they've trained. Some of the challenges new immigrants face include:

  • a cumbersome application process that doesn't fast-track the best talent;
  • a process that makes it hard for businesses to hire foreign talent, by forcing them to prove skill shortages - even when those shortages are well-documented; and
  • an infrastructure that doesn't support immigrants when they get here and denies them good jobs because they have no Canadian work experience.

In his remarks Nixon identified several areas to help immigrants integrate into the work force so that they can reach their potential. Specifically:

  • setting up language training programs that also emphasize business communications in addition to conversational language skills;
  • the creation of settlement and mentoring programs, as well as internship programs; and
  • the creation of programs related to foreign credentials.

Nixon applauded the BC government which has boosted funding for language training by several million dollars in its 2006 budget and committed $16 million to the Skills Connect and the International Qualifications programs. He also commended the federal government on last week's creation of an agency related to Foreign Credentials, increased funding for immigration settlement and incentives for apprenticeship programs.

"While governments have an important role to play, no level of government can bear the burden alone: business has to pick up the ball," Nixon said. "…I don't think companies are doing this intentionally, but because of systemic challenges that all organizations face. Once businesses start to realize the opportunity in diversity, systemic challenges seem to disappear."

For a copy of Nixon's speech and a full copy of the report, please visit www.rbc.com/newsroom.

- 30 -

Media contact:
Lynn Hatcher-Brandt, (604) 665-4031
Beja Rodeck, (416) 974-5506


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