New immigrants hold key to Canada's prosperity, according
to RBC's Nixon
Vancouver's Labour Challenge a Microcosm for the rest of
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,"
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
- setting up language training programs that also emphasize
business communications in addition to conversational language
- 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. "
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.
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Lynn Hatcher-Brandt, (604) 665-4031
Beja Rodeck, (416) 974-5506