Canada's Skilled Trades

Addressing Canada’s Skilled Trades Shortage Through Express Entry

Canada’s Express Entry system has witnessed a transformative shift in 2023, marked by the introduction of category-based draws aimed at prioritizing specific occupational sectors. One of these categories that has gained significant attention is the skilled trades sector. This move is part of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s broader strategy to bridge the labor market gaps in key employment sectors across the country.

The 2023 Express Entry categories encompass healthcare, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), transport, trades, and agriculture/agri-food. By channeling immigration efforts toward these specific fields, the Canadian government aims to address labor shortages and bolster its workforce effectively.

The fundamental shift between the traditional Express Entry draws and the new category-based draws lies in the emphasis on candidates’ Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores. While the standard draws primarily rely on CRS scores for ranking candidates, the category-based draws prioritize individuals with specialized work experience in the designated occupational categories.

The rationale behind the emphasis on trades in Express Entry draws is clear. According to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), skilled trades are in high demand across the country. These occupations are not only rewarding but also play an essential role in communities nationwide. ESDC’s projections indicate a need for over 256,000 new apprentices in the next five years to meet the demand for skilled trades work.

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Moreover, the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum estimates that Canada will require more than 122,000 new journeypersons to sustain workforce certification across Red Seal trades from 2022 to 2026. The Red Seal program sets standards and exams for trades, providing a national standard for tradespeople who pass the Red Seal exam.

These figures underscore the importance of prioritizing candidates with work experience in trade occupations through category-based Express Entry draws. The demand for trade workers is substantial, and addressing this shortage is critical to various industries, particularly construction.

BuildForce Canada estimates that the Canadian construction industry needs to recruit 299,200 new workers by 2032. This demand arises from the fact that 20% of the 2022 labor force in construction (approximately 245,100 workers) is expected to retire soon. Consequently, the industry needs to replenish its workforce to ensure ongoing growth and development.

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The Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS) operated by ESDC offers further insights into the occupational outlook for trades helpers and laborers. It projects an increase of nearly 20,000 job openings in this category from 2022 to 2031. These openings can be attributed to several factors:

  • Expansion Demand (17%): Job openings resulting from industry growth.
  • Retirements (60%): Opportunities created due to retiring workers.
  • Other Replacement Demand (9%): Job openings due to other replacements.
  • Emigration (13%): Opportunities arising from workers leaving their positions.

These projections collectively indicate that Canada urgently needs additional skilled trade workers to address labor shortages in various sectors.

For prospective immigrants to Canada, this presents a promising opportunity. The 2022 year-end Express Entry report reveals that candidates with experience in trade occupations were among the top recipients of Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for permanent residence in Canada. Cooks, for example, consistently ranked among the top ITA recipients, highlighting the government’s intention to welcome immigrants who can fill labor market gaps in skilled trades.

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Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s former Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, emphasized the need for skilled immigrants to support Canada’s housing and construction sectors. He stated that the country requires skilled workers to assist in building the housing that Canadians need.

The introduction of category-based Express Entry draws for trade occupations further strengthens the opportunities for skilled immigrants. The government’s commitment to attracting candidates with experience in trades indicates a concerted effort to address labor shortages effectively.

To date, IRCC has conducted one round of invitations exclusively for Express Entry candidates with recent work experience in trade occupations. This draw, held on August 3, invited 1,500 candidates with a minimum CRS score of 388 to apply for permanent residence in Canada. The data suggests that these category-based draws for trade occupations will play a significant role in the immigration landscape for the remainder of the calendar year, accounting for a notable percentage of ITAs issued under Express Entry.

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