The federal government has introduced a new program aimed at simplifying employers’ recruitment processes for high-skilled temporary workers from abroad.

The Global Talent Stream program, which is part of Canada’s temporary foreign worker program, speeds up the processing time for work permits by reducing it to two weeks.

“I think [the program] is excellent because [employers] have many gaps in areas of highly skilled workers and it’s difficult to attract and retain the right people,” says Antoinette Blunt, a human resources consultant and president of Ironside Consulting Services Inc. “In absence of a program like this, it’s certainly more work and requires more effort for employers to find people with these specialized skills.”

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Employers that want to recruit foreign workers under the program will have to meet one of two criteria. They can get a referral from a designated partner organization of Employment and Social Development Canada by showing a need for foreign workers with specific skills or they can demonstrate they need employees with in-demand skills listed in the department’s global occupations list. Employers have to pay $1,000 for each position they seek to fill and must demonstrate they’ve made initial efforts to recruit Canadians for the position.

The Entertainment Software Association of Canada, which represents the video gaming industry, has been lobbying for a better economic immigration program for six years, says Jayson Hilchie, president and chief executive officer of the organization. “For us, it’s been a long haul. . . . I’m still processing the fact that we’re there.”

According to Hilchie, employers have struggled to recruit employees from abroad because of huge delays and backlogs in processing their applications. “The processing times on [labour market impact assessments] became so long we’d actually lose candidates in the middle of the process. They’d be recruited by other companies or they would just get fed up and stay at their existing company in another country,” he says, noting applications sometimes took up to six months to process.

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And while employers in the gaming industry find it easy to recruit eager junior candidates, they find it challenging to fill senior roles aimed at employees with five to 20 years of experience, says Hilchie. He notes that with Canada’s gaming industry still relatively young, it’s hard to find candidates who meet those qualifications. Often, it’s only possible to find them in other countries — such as Japan and the United States — that have more mature gaming industries.

But even though the program helps companies recruit skilled employees, it fails to address how they’ll retain them, says Dan Breznitz, co-director of the innovation policy lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

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There are actually Canadians who hold the specialized skills sought by employers but who are working abroad because of better opportunities and compensation, he says. “I have not seen any attempt to reach out to them.”

Breznitz suggests the government’s new program only solves part of the issue and that Canada needs to do a better job of building its own technology industry so that skilled Canadians have an incentive to stay in the first place.

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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