Attracting skilled immigrants a critical key in closing skills gaps

VANCOUVER, March 28, 2014 /CNW/ - Over 80 BC employers and industry representatives along with representatives from government, post-secondary and other key stakeholders are coming together today to address the looming shortage of skilled workers in the province at the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC-BC) 2014 Summit: Mind the Gap, Winning Global Talent for BC's Continued Prosperity.

The province is expected to face a shortage of at least 61,500 skilled workers by 2020 according to the BC Labour Market Outlook, 2010 - 2020, due to an aging workforce, low birth rates and economic growth in emerging sectors and major projects.

"It's not a question of if skills shortages will come, but when," says Kelly Pollack, Executive Director of IEC-BC, "and a key to the solution is right in front of us."

In 2012 alone, 36,240 new immigrants chose BC as their province of residence, and 67 percent of them reported having professional-level skills.

"Skilled immigrants are critical to the growth of our economy," Pollack stresses. "And to resolve the labour shortages in BC's regions and sectors when they arise, businesses need to be ready. They need to start thinking differently about skilled immigrants because they are the fastest-rising stars in the world's search for top talent."

IEC-BC's full-day Summit in downtown Vancouver will inspire BC leaders to develop solutions that more effectively utilize BC's immigrant talent to help meet provincial workforce needs. The Summit will present local and global best practices for mobilizing immigrant talent. IEC-BC is also launching their new online employer tools & resource library (MindTheGapBC.com) to help employers in attracting, retaining, and hiring skilled talent.

"Our government is committed to ensuring that newcomers to Canada integrate and contribute fully to the Canadian economy, and to their communities, as soon as possible, " says Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, who is speaking at the Summit. "We will continue to work with provincial and territorial partners and employers across Canada to ensure newcomers are able to achieve success and become active members of Canadian society more quickly."

Other high-profile Summit speakers include renowned migration expert, Dr. Demetrios Papademetriou, President, of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC; and Warren Everson, Senior Vice-President, Policy with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and author of the "Top Ten Barriers to Competitiveness" which cites skills shortages as the number one concern of Canadian employers.

A panel of BC thought leaders will discuss the Province's advantages in the competition for global talent, and how we can further strengthen BC's brand.

IEC-BC's 11 Employer Innovation Fund projects — funded by the Federal and Provincial governments in 2012 to address immigrant talent hiring and retention challenges faced by BC employers in six key industries and across all regions of the province — are now complete and their outcomes will be shared at the Summit by each of the project leaders.

IEC-BC is a provincial non-government governmental organization that stimulates the integration of skilled immigrant talent into BC's workplaces by fostering solutions, building connections and being a champion to help employers attract and retain skilled immigrant talent. Visit www.iecbc.ca for more information or follow IEC-BC on Twitter.com/iec_bc.

"With skilled immigrants having become a priority policy target for countries ranging from Canada and Germany to Mexico, Turkey, Portugal and China, the policy challenge is no longer how we should choose them but how they will choose us," says Dr. Demetrios Papademetriou, President of the Migration Policy Institute. "This will revolutionize the way that all of us, employers, governments and receiving communities, think about and act in the skilled migration game."   

"Skills gaps cost the economy billions of dollars annually in foregone GDP," says Warren Everson, Senior Vice President, Policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. "Business, governments and academia must work together to address the current and future skills needed and those available. Our competitiveness as a nation depends on us facing solutions."

SOURCE Immigrant Employment Council of BC

For further information: Media contact: Karen Zukas, Manager, Communications, Immigrant Employment Council of BC, karen.zukas@iecbc.ca, Office: 604-630-5018, Cell: 604-218-3487