Editorial: Canadians expect a balanced workforce

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney continues to remove barriers to ensure Alberta's oilsands and construction industries have access to the skilled tradespeople they need. Last week, Kenney expanded a pilot program that allows foreign workers to change bosses, rather than being tethered to one employer for the duration of their stay.

We think that makes sense and provides a measure of flexibility for temporary workers, as well as some assurance they won't have to endure abuse from their bosses.

"This collapses what used to be a six-month, complicated, bureaucratic process into a one-step process, where they can get a work permit in 30 minutes at the airport," Kenney said.

For the past year, foreign steamfitters and pipefitters in the pilot project have been able to move freely between Alberta employers. Now, other in-demand tradespeople, including welders, heavy-duty mechanics, ironworkers, millwrights and carpenters will also be able to join the program.

A concern raised by Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan bears noting. He says half the companies looking to hire foreign construction workers don't offer apprenticeship training programs - a shortcoming that should be remedied.

Canadians rightly expect skilled foreign workers to complement a homegrown workforce, not substitute for skills training. Both levels of government, and industry, need to ensure that young people, women and aboriginals, in particular, are given a chance to secure trades training so they can have access to lucrative and rewarding careers.

Calgary Herald Editorial, July 23 2012

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