By Tessa Seager, CCI’s Director of Government Affairs for B.C.
At the Council of Canadian Innovators, our members care deeply about building world class companies with the best talent they can find. It’s why we spend a lot of time advocating for immigration strategies that increase access to talented individuals from around the world to come to Canada and work at our country’s fastest-growing firms. While Canada’s post-secondary institutions and polytechnics produce top-notch talent, Canada still faces a severe domestic shortage of highly skilled experienced talent, forcing companies to look beyond our borders to address their talent needs.
In fact, nearly 80 per cent of our member companies expect to recruit workers from outside of Canada in 2021 to fill labour gaps. This is exactly why we’ve always championed national and provincial strategies to increase access to talent for domestic innovators, like the federal Global Skills Strategy, and tech streams of our Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP).
Here in B.C., we’ve had a dedicated tech talent stream of the PNP since 2017, but only as a pilot program. The pilot is set to expire at the end of June, and thus far local business leaders haven’t been told what the plan is after that. In response to this uncertainty, CCI’s B.C. members sent a letter to B.C. Minister Josie Osborne last week calling for the PNP tech talent stream to be made permanent.
The fact is that COVID-19 has dramatically changed the competitive landscape for talent, especially for technology companies. The shift to remote work has changed the labour market for everyone, and Canadian companies are competing more than ever with Silicon Valley for engineers, software developers, technologists and leaders.
As a country, we need our governments to be taking a proactive, strategic approach to the dire skills shortage in tech, and the immigration system needs to be a key component. It’s concerning that the B.C. government hasn’t already announced plans for the PNP tech pilot, because the uncertainty around this program makes it harder for businesses to plan and invest in the growth of their businesses. By making the PNP Tech Stream permanent, innovators will be able to better long-term plan and will have greater confidence to make business expansion plans, knowing that this critical service will be available when they need it.
It can be hard to feel like immigration should be a top priority right now, as we’re still mostly unable to travel, and the Canada-U.S. border is still closed to non-essential travel. But the fact is, the great reopening is right around the corner, and now is the moment to be making plans, so we can take full advantage of what comes next.
To add your voice to CCI’s advocacy for a permanent PNP tech stream in B.C., please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.