The Alberta government wants employers to hire provincial residents first before using temporary foreign workers or other options.
Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray recently announced the Employer Liaison Service, a federal-provincial pilot project she said is designed to ensure Albertans are “first in line” when employees are needed.
The 24-month pilot program will connect employers with a service that will in turn attempt to connect them with potential employees with emphasis on people from indigenous groups, persons with disabilities, new immigrants with permanent resident status and young people.
The program applies to 29 high-skilled job categories, including engineers, heavy equipment mechanics, carpenters, millwrights, welders and transport truck drivers.
Agricultural workers are not on the list.
Gray said Alberta employers had difficulty finding workers when the provincial economy was booming and looked to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
“At the time, these workers helped keep Alberta’s economy running. But times have changed. Last year there were 100,000 Albertans on employment insurance. Many of those were highly skilled Albertans looking for jobs,” said Gray.
“At the same time, Alberta employers applied to the federal government to hire 10,000 temporary foreign workers. We know from the data that some of those jobs could and should have been filled by qualified workers right here at home.”
Employers who seek to use the TFWP to fill jobs on the list of 29 categories will now be directed to the liaison service, which will attempt to connect them with qualified Albertans seeking jobs.
To qualify for hiring through the TFWP, employers have to complete a labor market impact assessment to prove no local people are available for the vacancies.
Gray said anyone applying for such an assessment now will be routed to the liaison service.
Patty Hajdu, federal minister for employment, workforce development and labour, also participated in the announcement, held at Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
She said the project “will put Albertans first in line” for jobs and assist with employment challenges created after the downturn in the oil and gas sector. Data from the pilot project will be shared with the federal government to see if a similar project should be applied elsewhere, she said.