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Temporary Foreign Workers update provided at High River Rotary

KEVIN RUSHWORTH HIGH RIVER TIMES/QMI AGENCY. John Barlow, MP for Macleod, addresses Rotarians on March 5.

KEVIN RUSHWORTH HIGH RIVER TIMES/QMI AGENCY. John Barlow, MP for Macleod, addresses Rotarians on March 5.

HIGH RIVER TIMES – by Kevin Rushworth

March 19, 2015

John Barlow, MP for Macleod, visited the Rotary Club of High River to provide an update on his current work on Parliament Hill, the changes that will help address concerns with the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program and answer resident questions.

During their meeting on March 5, Rotarians gathered to hear Barlow speak about national issues and to voice their own worries about concerns locally and across Canada.

Barlow explained a new bridge program, one designed for Alberta, that is to reduce a backlog in the provincial nominee program and help temporary workers gain permanent residency status quicker.

“A lot of people who had temporary foreign visas and had applied to the provincial nominee program, their visas were expiring well before they got through the provincial nominee program,” he said.

Despite some temporary workers being in good stead to gain permanent residency, a quagmire in the system meant they were in danger of having to return to their home countries, Barlow said.

“A process that was supposed to be taking between eight and 10 months is now taking close to four years,” he noted, stating the steps being put in place to reduce such a bottleneck.

The goal, Barlow added, is to find a way to keep the temporary foreign workers already in communities across Canada as they go through the process so businesses will not lose their expertise.

A first group of 1,000 temporary foreign workers will have their TFW visas grandfathered in and can stay in Canada as long as it takes to manoeuvre the provincial nominee program, Barlow said.

These workers, who will be selected by the province, are those who are already in the queue for the provincial nominee program, he explained. More groups will be selected, Barlow noted.

“We had some opportunities to gather some feedback from business owners, share some ideas, share some potential solutions and this bridge program is one of them we were able to take forward,” he said.

A select number of temporary foreign workers, those who are currently living in Canada, can also apply for an extension once they meet specific qualifications, Barlow said.

In an earlier interview, Barlow explained the Express Program, another avenue designed to help address the labour crunch in Alberta.

“The idea of this program is to try and get foreign workers their permanent residency status as quickly as possible so they can get out of the temporary foreign workers stream,” he noted.

Though the Express Program is not altogether new, Barlow said it was tweaked and reintroduced in January 2015. Temporary foreign workers start this process by filling out an online profile.

He added that these people must already have a job opportunity in mind or they could also utilize the services of the Canadian Job Bank. Canadian immigration staff will go through the profiles.

Each profile, Barlow said, will be ranked on a point system based on applicants’ age, education, work experience among other criteria. The highest ranked are put into the process of gaining permanent residency.

“We think that’s a better way of doing this, so we can identify areas in the labour market where there are the most difficulties and direct new employees and new residents to these areas,” Barlow noted.

The purpose of the Express Entry program is to speed up the process that sees temporary foreign workers gain permanent residency status. The process should now take a year, Barlow said.

Although these alterations do not necessarily address those gaining entry-level positions, he added that the changes should help keep critical employees in Canada.

Another aspect of the Express Entry program, according to Barlow, is the Canadian Experience component, which temporary foreign workers can apply for through the aforementioned program.

“We are still working with the province in terms of trying to get more residents into the provincial nominee program, and that’s always available to those entry-level positions,” Barlow said.

Yet, this portion of the Express Entry program is still based on how individuals are ranked, he added.

Barlow said the federal government remains aware of other concerns, but that the recently announced changes to the programs are only step one in a process of addressing Alberta’s critical labour issues.

During his address to the Rotary Club of High River, Barlow also explained the government of Canada has renewed the Canadian Apprenticeship Loan program. $100 million has been committed, he added.

“We saw over the last year about 360,000 Canadians go through an apprenticeship program, but only about half of them are finishing,” he said. “That was kind of an alarming number of us.”

Alberta remains desperate for skilled labour and skilled trades, Barlow explained. Ensuring Canadians who want to get into these sectors have the ability to do so is vital, he said.

Those who are going through a certified Red Seal apprenticeship program can apply for a no-interest loan of $4,000 per training period, Barlow noted.

In addition, the loans do not have to be repaid until six years after program completion, he said.

After Barlow’s speech to Rotarians, questions from the floor ranged from such topics as the rise of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow disease), east-west pipelines and the Syria crisis.

To read the original article posted on the High River Times website, click here.