It can be hard to feel like immigration should be a top priority right now, as we’re still mostly unable to travel, and the Canada-U.S. border is still closed to non-essential travel.
But the fact is, the great reopening is right around the corner, and with the pilot of the dedicated tech talent stream of B.C.’s Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) set to expire at the end of June, the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI) is sounding the alarm.
CCI is Canada’s 21st century business council, advocating for our country’s high-growth, innovative companies and Tessa Seager was recently appointed as its practice lead for British Columbia.
According to the CCI, nearly 80 per cent of their member companies (which include Clio, Klue, GeoComply, Plurilock, Terramera, and more in B.C.) expect to recruit workers from outside of Canada in 2021 to fill labour gaps.
The PNP tech pilot is set to expire at the end of June but local business leaders haven’t been told what the plan is after that date.
In response to this uncertainty, CCI’s B.C. members sent a letter to B.C. Minister Josie Osborne last week calling for the PNP tech talent stream to be made permanent.
While Canada’s post-secondary institutions and polytechnics produce top-notch talent, Canada still faces a severe domestic shortage of highly skilled experienced talent, forcing companies to look beyond our borders to address their talent needs.
“Skilled technical and sales talent are highly sought after by B.C. innovators as the rocket power they need to fuel the province’s fastest-growing companies,” Seager told Techcouver.
“The Provincial Nominee Program Tech Pilot was put in place in 2017 following a labour market study which found that access to talent was the biggest issue for the B.C. tech sector. Today, accessing skilled talent remains a persistent challenge in B.C., and COVID-19 has only acerbated the talent crunch.”
COVID-19 has dramatically changed the competitive landscape for talent, especially for technology companies. The shift to remote work has changed the labour market for everyone, and Canadian companies are competing more than ever with Silicon Valley for engineers, software developers, technologists and leaders.
“Since its inception, the PNP Tech Pilot has served as a vital instrument in accelerating the growth of many of B.C.’s most promising companies. As B.C. prepares for its post-pandemic reopening, the government should make the PNP Tech Pilot permanent so that business leaders can continue to utilize it to access the talent they need to scale their companies globally,” Seager continued.
As a country, we need our governments to be taking a proactive, strategic approach to the dire skills shortage in tech, and the immigration system needs to be a key component.
It’s concerning that the B.C. government hasn’t already announced plans for the PNP tech pilot, because the uncertainty around this program makes it harder for businesses to plan and invest in the growth of their businesses.
By making the PNP Tech Stream permanent, innovators will be able to better long-term plan and will have greater confidence to make business expansion plans, knowing that this critical service will be available when they need it.