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Commentary Submitted to Toronto, Canada Globe and Mail Newspaper
Attention Employers! Canada Already Has a Faster Way to Hire Foreign Skilled Workers: Express Entry

It was very disheartening to read the frustration about hiring foreign skilled workers in last Tuesday’s Globe and Mail commentary by Stephen Lake, founder and CEO of Thalmic Labs in Kitchener. He’s right, of course: Canada should roll out the red carpet for Foreign Skilled Workers.

Unfortunately, what Mr. Lake and many other CEO’s and Human Resources leaders are not aware of is that there’s a revolutionary, fast and easy-to-use “red carpet” immigration process that launched on Jan. 1, 2015. It’s called Express Entry.

But the problem is that Express Entry seems to be grossly misunderstood and remains one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. A recent survey conducted in western Canada revealed 71 percent of employers had never heard of Express Entry.

This lack of awareness comes at a high cost to Canadian employers, who, as Mr. Lake knows firsthand, increasingly can’t find qualified Canadians for hard-to-fill professional and skilled positions. According to HR Professional Magazine, every day a vacant $70,000 position goes unfilled, lost productivity can cost employers up to $954 per day.

A 2015 report from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce says that solving the skills gap remains, for the fourth year in a row, a main priority. A new survey by a leading job board in Canada found that half of Canadian Employers can’t find enough skilled workers to fill certain key positions currently open.

So why is Canada’s skills gap costing employers millions and still worsening when Express Entry provides a readily available solution? Start with the awareness problem…add confusion about past immigration policies…and throw in misinformation about how the new Express Entry program works and you have the answer.

Here are six “myths” about Canada’s new Express Entry program:

1. The government is “driving the process”.

That’s absolutely false. Express Entry puts the employer squarely in the driver’s seat. When an employer selects, interviews and offers a job to a skilled professional from another country, that job offer alone is the trigger for an ITA as it automatically gives the candidate an additional 600 pts and virtually guarantees permanent residency for the new hire.

2. The process takes too long.

Our recent test survey in western Canada revealed that on average, many firms can’t find qualified talent to fill critical positions for six months to more than a year. Under Express Entry, a Canadian employer’s newly hired professional can begin working in Canada in a much shorter time frame.

3. Hiring a foreign qualified professional is risky.

Risk exists if there is not the proper validation or certification of the individual’s resume, educational background, criminal screening and English proficiency in advance. If this is done in advance and shared with the employer as part of the interview process, then they have eliminated the material hiring risk that scares them today.

4. The level of talent isn’t as good as in Canada.

This one defies logic and as well as basic math. There’s a talent gap today because Canadian employers can’t find enough qualified Canadians to fill many positions. Under Express Entry, employers can pick from the entire global talent pool to select from the ‘best of the best’ professionals. I know there’s one professional from Asia trying to be hired by a Canadian employer under Express Entry who worked for Goldman Sachs. And Canadian employers can immediately hire more like him in virtually all industry segments - especially in technology and IT, financial services, engineering, project management, healthcare, sales and marketing, administration, telecom and literally dozens of others.

5. The Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process is too difficult.

It is if you don’t have the right partner to help you, but it doesn’t have to be. There are partners in Canada who can do virtually all of this work for employers at zero to low cost to ensure all LMIA processes are followed to the letter and are completed as quickly as possible.

6. Incoming professionals have a hard time adjusting to Canadian culture and workplace environments.

Again, this depends on whether the professional has a partner to help him or her adjust in their career transition. There are Canadian firms and organizations that provide intense relocation, settlement and career coaching for the life of the professional’s career in Canada to make sure adjustments are fast and easy beginning on the day of arrival.

When my father, an engineer, immigrated to Canada in the 1960s from the UK, he had to work in humiliating “survival jobs” for almost five years until he was hired as an engineer.

Finally, the Canadian government, working with business, has created Express Entry to not only help professional immigrants like my father find jobs with dignity, but to also help employers hire the skilled professional talent they need directly from other countries by simply offering a job. It is very important for all of us to remember that Canada was built on diversity…we are ALL IMMIGRANTS, some of us just have more tenure than others!

It’s time more employers started using this incredibly innovative and creative “talent pipeline” to help solve Canada’s talent gap.

Rohail Khan is founder and Chairman of Skills International Inc. , a global talent and career management firm that connects talent to opportunity worldwide. Founded in Canada, Skills International is registered in Singapore and has a global footprint that can access more than 70 million fully qualified professionals worldwide.