The provincial government is making changes to the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program (AAIP) with the goal of expediting the flow of key international workers to wild rose country.
Alberta has about 100,000 job openings across the province in all sectors but is hoping these changes will bring more skilled talent to high-need areas, chief among them in health care.
“We’re taking these steps because they are not only right and just, they are becoming a necessity,” said Premier Danielle Smith in a press conference on Monday. “Alberta is the home of dreamers and innovators and doers. We’re always looking to find a better way. That’s who Albertans are, now and forever. We need to continue moving forward and growing the Alberta advantage not just for those living here, but for everyone dreaming of bigger things.”
Lowering the threshold for investment from applicants will hopefully help recruit newcomers to rural communities: Sawhney
There are 9,750 AAIP nominations allocated to the province through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada this year, up from 6,500 in 2022. This is expected to grow to 10,140 in 2024 and 10,890 in 2025.
In 2022, about 50,000 people from around the world came to Alberta to invest and work through all streams of immigration.
The changes announced on Monday will set aside up to 30 per cent of the AAIP Express Entry Stream for health care. The express entry stream accounts for 50 per cent of the AAIP nominations. The other sectors making up this tranche are construction, agriculture, hospitality and tourism, while the Accelerated Tech Pathway and Family Connection and Occupation in Demand have their own pathways in the express entry stream.
“We are developing a new dedicated AAIP pathway for medical professionals who have a job offer from an Alberta health-care sector employer and who meet the minimum requirements to practice in their profession in Alberta,” said Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism.
“We’ll help health-care sector employers in any Alberta community meet their labor needs faster.”
Rural Entrepreneur and Rural Renewal makes up 630 nominations in the non-Express Entry Stream but the province is lowering the threshold for investment from applicants from $200,000 to $100,000, while also removing the requirement for a letter from a settlement agency. The hope is that this will help recruit newcomers to rural communities.
The province will also be setting up a new phone line to connect AAIP staff with clients and collaboration with the federal Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot. This is geared towards assisting refugees in gaining the skills and qualifications needed in Canada to immigrate through existing economic programs.
“I think the impact will be significant, but most significant if you take them in the context of a number of improvements and changes that have been taking place to our immigration system over the last several months,” said Scott Crockatt, vice president of communications and external relations for the Business Council of Alberta.
“Most importantly, there’s been about a 50-per-cent increase in the number of nominations that the province has — the number of people that can come through this economic program — and that’s going to be really significant and that’s what’s created some of the opportunity for these new streams.”
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Newcomers with credentials often directed towards ‘survival jobs’
Attracting people to Alberta is just part of the issue for Kelly Ernst, chief program officer for Calgary’s Center for Newcomers. The big challenge for many people who have come to Alberta is gaining re-certification or recognition of their qualifications and experience, particularly in health care.
They are often pushed into food service or other industries despite receiving training often on par with their Canadian counterparts.
Meanwhile, the immigration process was slow and costing Canada top talent to other countries, he said. Ernst noted the current wait time for even a hearing is 21 months, and an appeal process takes even longer. The AAIP takes between one month and five months to process an application, depending on the stream.
“It’s really quite common for people’s credentials not to be acknowledged and also their experiences,” said Ernst. “Very often employers want to see Canadian experience on a resume and for newcomers it’s obvious that doesn’t happen. And so what very commonly happens is people with really incredible histories of education and experiences will be directed towards survival jobs.”