Ontario to ban Canadian experience requirement amid skills shortage

A major project underway at the corner of Sherborne and Front streets, Toronto, August 2023 (Geo Swan/CC0 1.0 Deed/Public domain)
The government of the Canadian province of Ontario this month promised legislation that would ban employers from requiring Canadian work experience in job advertisements and application forms.

The law is intended to make it easier for immigrants to find work in sectors like construction that face skills shortages.

One construction industry association in the province told GCR it broadly welcomed the move.

The province is experiencing a surge in major rail infrastructure projects and an ongoing housing shortage.

Construction unemployment is low, and the workforce is ageing.

In April, industry forecaster BuildForce Canada predicted that 82,600 workers would retire in the next nine years – some 18% of the construction labour force – leaving a gap of some 119,000 workers.

“For far too long, too many people arriving in Canada have been funnelled toward dead-end jobs they’re overqualified for,” said Ontario immigration minister David Piccini.

“We need to ensure these people can land well-paying and rewarding careers that help tackle the labour shortage. When newcomers to Ontario get a meaningful chance to contribute, everyone wins.”

The government said research shows that helping immigrants work in the professions they trained for could increase the province’s GDP by up to C$100bn.

It added that it would seek changes to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Programme that would open it up to hundreds of one-year college graduate certificate programmes around the province.

“Employers shouldn’t rule out prospective candidates simply for a lack of Canadian experience,” Ian Cunningham, president of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations, told GCR.

“They should avail themselves of a broad array of prospective candidates and hire the one that is best suited for the job on offer.”

He suggested that most construction firms already accept workers without Canadian experience.

“Employment in the industry is at or near record high levels,” he said. “In the current labour market conditions, I’m not aware that the lack of Canadian experience is a barrier to getting hired in the construction trades. The industry can use every experienced person no matter where they got their construction experience.”

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