Canada’s Workforce Paradox – High Job Demand, High Unemployment

By Doug Piquette

At the annual meeting of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hamilton, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney was quoted as saying that “Canada has more than a million Canadians who are officially unemployed but that in many provinces across the nation many companies cannot get the workers they need. This paradox, he said, is a “drag on Canada’s economy and must be solved”.  He added that “We will not realize our economic potential until we solve this paradox”.

Alright, so how can Canadians respond to such a paradoxical challenge? Minister Kenney was quick to point out that there isn’t just one solution to these types of challenges, in fact, the truth is there is never a single ‘silver bullet’ solution to any workforce issue.

At the ERIEC office, we continue to meet with skilled ‘global talent’ who find themselves in ‘survivor jobs’ and who have not yet been working to their career potential since their arrival in Edmonton. Hard to believe considering our current economic climate and demand for talent.

The economy, both local and national, benefits when skilled immigrants participate in the workforce at a skills-appropriate level. How so? Quite simply, when a professional’s disposable income increases with higher earnings this, in turn, leads to increased consumer spending and increased tax revenues for the city and surrounding communities.

Our program focus at ERIEC helps employers to address workplace cultural differences. Through our mentorship programming, we help to improve employers’ understanding of the cross-cultural dynamics that occur when hiring skilled newcomers to the Canadian workplace.

Workplace orientations and other employee on-boarding processes that aim to create a more accommodating workplace through cross-cultural competency development are time-consuming but effective over the long term, especially when it comes to retention of employees. The skilled immigrant talent pool can be leveraged for innovation and productivity improvements, but they can also play a major part of a company’s succession plan.

So in response to Mr. Kenny’s paradox, I would say it begins first by communicating and second by actively working together with employers and immigrants — to help improve hiring practices, to encourage new policies, and to change perceptions about skilled immigrants. By taking this approach our economy and communities can benefit from the skills, training and knowledge that professional newcomers can offer.

Join our Mentorship Program

Build the careers of skilled immigrants and promote a global perspective in Edmonton's business community.