CANADA is hoping to lure 3,000 skilled construction workers to its shores this year with the promise of permanent residency to qualified electricians, welders, pipefitters, heavy-duty mechanics and other tradespeople.
A current scarcity of skilled workers in the construction sector and a projected shortfall of 320,000 tradespeople between now and 2020 has prompted the Canadian government to relax immigration requirements for qualified workers.
As of today, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration will be accepting applications for the fast-tracked permanent-residency offer under its Federal Skilled Trades Programme.
Until now, skilled workers and tradespeople working in the construction and other trade sectors have been required to have third-level education and other qualifications before being considered for permanent-residency status once they had secured a job.
But under the new programme, construction workers with a job offer or Canadian certificate of qualification will be considered for the programme if they meet basic criteria, including having a general level of proficiency in either English or French, practical training and work experience in a trade that is in demand.
Michael Atkinson, president of the Canadian Construction Association, said the new and relaxed guidelines were much welcomed by the industry and would appeal to Irish construction workers and tradespeople who are looking to emigrate to Canada following the collapse of the industry here.
He said that unlike the situation in Ireland, where the construction industry was based on an overheated housing market, Canada's is diversified.
Not only are workers required for the booming residential and commercial construction market, there is a huge demand for skilled workers in the resource sectors – including oil, natural gas, mining and hydro-electric projects – as well as in infrastructure-renewal projects.
A huge number of construction workers in Canada are nearing retirement and are not being replaced by younger workers due to a decrease in the country's birth rate, said Mr Atkinson.
While the new programme will only take 3,000 applicants in the initial year, it is expected to add a greater number of annual applicants over the coming years, he explained.
Skilled workers in the transportation, manufacturing and service industries are also being sought under the programme.
Mr Atkinson said Irish workers had an advantage over applicants from other countries due to the common English language and culture.
"You have the language skills, which is a leg-up, and there is common terminology in the trades," he said.
Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who visited Ireland last year, said at the time: "The government of Canada is committed to building an immigration system that actively recruits talent, rather than passively processing all applications we receive. That's part of the reason why I'm visiting Ireland to personally promote all the opportunities that Canada has to offer to talented individuals from around the world."
A full list of qualified occupations and more information on the programme are available by logging on to: www.cic.gc.ca.