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Executive Summaries Sep 6, 2019

Role of Foreign Workers at the Heart of Canada's Strategic Innovation and Talent Plan

Innovation is about rethink, rebuild and grow. Innovation is a concept that has always existed, nourished by dreams, creativity and human talent. To date, Canada has implemented many programs and incentives to encourage direct foreign investment. The country also prioritized attracting global talent with a strong commitment to Canadian society, and these efforts generated positive results overall.

The Canadian plan launched by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) includes several measures that are notably focused on increasing the number of professional, science and tech-related jobs to 40% of total employment opportunities. A skilled and competitive workforce is central to economic growth; there are multiple actions to be taken to build this skilled workforce. Whether it concerns education, training, entrepreneurship, promoting science or immigration programs, the goal remains the same: to develop a skilled, innovative and competitive workforce in Canada.

Immigration has a recognised demographic and social role, but these days it is also an economic force that no nation can afford to ignore.

The contribution of global talent to economic growth and innovation is undeniable. According to the Conference Board of Canada1, at least 35% of Canada research chairs are the result of immigration, and nearly one-quarter of Canadian patents are held by foreign co-inventors. The same study also shows the contribution of immigrants to international trade as well as the attraction of direct foreign investment. The importance of diaspora networks is also growing.

For innovative companies, the ability to attract and retain the best talent is essential in order to compete against global rivals. Canada is well positioned on the world stage in terms of attracting foreign workers, particularly through the deployment of various immigration strategies facilitating the entry of skilled workers into Canada who bring value-added knowledge and know-how to Canadian companies. These efforts undoubtedly contribute to economic growth and the creation of better local jobs for Canadians.

The recent Global Talent Stream programme facilitates the arrival of certain temporary foreign workers, who are highly sought by innovative companies. Launched in 2017 as a Pilot Project, and made permanent in the most recent federal budget, this programme is central to the overall government strategy meant to help Canadian businesses of all sizes prosper. The goal of this programme is not only to attract the best global talent, but also to ensure skill transfer to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and local jobs creation.

In brief, this programme allows high-growth innovative companies to benefit from fast track processing of work permit applications for certain highly skilled positions in two weeks instead of the few months that it often takes with the usual temporary foreign worker programme. The targeted positions include computer systems managers, computer analysts and consultants, software engineers and designers, interactive media programmers and developers, and database analysts. Expedited processing is also applied to underlying visa applications for foreign nationals who also require visas to enter Canada. This opportunity to recruit foreign talent much more quickly aligns more closely to the needs and reality of innovative companies and allows them to be more attractive and competitive in a constantly changing world where talent acquisition is a real challenge.

This competitive advantage allows Canada to stand out in North America, comparing favourably to the United States’ immigration system, which imposes quotas and generally involves much longer processing times for the same type of workers. The Canadian system is thus becoming attractive not only to global talent, but also for foreign direct investment and the creation of R&D centres that will benefit from this facilitated access for the most skilled workers.

There are many benefits from the new programme to the Canadian economy. In particular, in return for the benefits provided under the programme, registered companies commit to creating local jobs and training their local workforce. Under the pilot project, those employers who have taken advantage of the programme, have already committed to creating 40,000 jobs for Canadian citizens and permanent residents, creating 10,000 co-op internships and investing over CAD $90 million in training.

Immigration is now at the heart of global economic strategy; Canada must seize the opportunity offered by the current global context. Fostering access to global talent for our innovative companies through programmes adapted to businesses and economic context is a tool available to global and local companies alike to succeed, pushing the limits of innovation and creativity beyond all borders.


1Conference Board of Canada study released 29 April 2018

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