More skilled workers needed in Canadian oil sands

Jason Kenney

By Jasminee Sahoye


More emphasis is now being placed on getting foreign workers in the skilled trades to come to Canada and become permanent residents due to a severe shortage of manpower in this sector.

Federal Employment Minister, Jason Kenney at a news conference last week said the need for foreign skilled workers is greater especially in Alberta’s oil sands.  He indicated that efforts are being made to fill those positions with an influx of carpenters, electricians and welders from outside of Canada.

The skilled trades program is geared for people qualified in the skilled trade, who want to become permanent residents. Those interested must have work experience in a specific trade and meet several other requirements.

Kenney said a challenge facing Canada is that young people are not going into the trades; hence creating an “acute shortage” of electricians, welders and boilermakers.

“Because Canada has always been a country of immigration, we believe we can use our immigration programs much better to attract tradesmen who have practical skills and can literally help us build our country,” he said.

“We see some of the most acute labour shortages in the construction trades in the Athabasca oil sands region because we’re talking about multi-billion-dollar mega construction projects there. We simply do not have enough qualified trades people in Canada to fill those labour needs.”

The minister said the scarcity of quality workers stretches across the country from the oil sands to huge commodity projects throughout northern Canada and iron ore developments in Labrador.

He noted: “according to different industry councils, we’re looking at shortages of hundreds of thousands of construction trades people in the next decade.  We need to make sure we have an immigration system that instead of bringing medical doctors here to drive cabs brings electricians to work as electricians.”

“Our old immigration system was dysfunctional. It took us sometimes up to 10 years to process an application for someone to immigrate to Canada,” said Kenney, who served as Citizenship, Immigration and Multicultural Minister before the recent Cabinet shuffle.