Canada needs a ‘course correction’ when it comes to supporting and recruiting international students to tackle the country’s labor shortage issues, according to a new report.
A leader in global education, Canada recently overtook the UK to take third place behind the US and Australia as a destination for international students.
International students now make up nearly 20% of all students enrolled in post-secondary institutions in Canada, up from 7.2% in 2010. This group is often seen as an evolutionary solution to the country’s aging workforce .
But the path to stable employment and citizenship for them is paved with complicated immigration requirements and barriers to entry for many workers, according to a report by RBC Economics and Thought Leadership.
“For many, a Canadian education may not produce the desired return on investment,” the report states.
He also revealed that Canada needs a more focused strategy to recruit and train students to fill gaps in their healthcare industry and other trades.
International students’ journey from classroom to permanent residency is weakened by their disconnection from the job market, such as when their credentials don’t meet labor market needs, researchers have found.
Canada’s immigration program changed in 2016, giving a Canadian education more weight in the points system for permanent residents.
As a result, the report found that enrollments in shorter post-secondary programs, which are considered a fast track for immigration, have grown twice as fast as enrollments in other programs since 2016.
“Canada needs college-educated students to fill labor shortages across the economy. But some students in short-cycle programs have a longer path to the labor market and permanent residency, and some may have no path at all,” the report warns.
The report’s researchers argue that adjusting immigration selection to favor international students with STEM, healthcare and trades backgrounds and giving these students more opportunities for work experience at their institutions would greatly improve the chances of keeping students in the country as workers.
“Institutions are the ones that primarily select people,” Iain Reeve, associate director of immigration research at the Conference Board of Canada, said in the report.
“And the federal and provincial immigration programs are working in parallel and saying, ‘How do we get some of these people to stay? “”
Canada competes with several other countries to retain top international talent. The UK, US and Australia have already put in place measures to target STEM students to enter and stay in their countries.
One of the report’s key recommendations includes investing in a wage subsidy program for international students working and studying in high-demand fields; while facilitating their access to work-integrated learning without the need for additional work permits.
“The labor market and international education are not yet well aligned and we are not fully benefiting from the real power of international students,” said Martin Basiri, co-founder and CEO of online recruitment platform, ApplyBoard in The report.
“With a few tweaks to create the roster, Canada can really benefit on a massive scale.”