Recruiting Foreign Workers to Work in Alberta

April 2006

The process of recruiting foreign tradespeople to work in Alberta is one which should be well planned and carefully executed, in order to maximize the prospects of a successful outcome. This article outlines what employers need to both know, and do, in order to make the process as efficient and painless as possible.

  1. Service Canada Labour Market Opinion:
    Step one is to obtain a Labour Market Opinion Confirmation from Service Canada (formerly HRSDC) that your employment of foreign workers will not negatively affect the Canadian Labour Market. In order to make this determination, Service Canada will consider a number of things, including:

    1. Whether the work is likely to result in direct job creation or job retention for Canadians
    2. Whether the work is likely to result in the creation or transfer of skills and knowledge to Canadians
    3. Whether the work is likely to fill a labour shortage
    4. Whether the wages and working conditions being offered are sufficient to attract Canadians to do the job
    5. Whether the employer has made, or has agreed to make, reasonable efforts to hire or train Canadians, and
    6. If there is a labour dispute in progress at the time, whether your employment of the worker is likely to adversely affect either the settlement of the dispute, or the employment of any person involved in the dispute

    While companies may make applications directly to Service Canada on their own, many employers find it very helpful to retain an experienced Immigration law firm to assist them with obtaining Labour Market Opinions. Find out why.

  2. Finding foreign workers:
    Once you have the Labour Market Opinion, you can proceed to find foreign workers who have the skills that you require. Employers may work with local and foreign recruitment firms, immigration lawyers and others who have access to a pool of skilled workers. Here are the most common ways to find foreign workers.

  3. Screening the foreign workers:
    All viable applicants will need to be screened. This requires a twofold process - you need to ensure that they have the skills and experience that you require, and also that they will meet the requirements of the trade certifying authority, Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training (AIT).

    This screening will include:

    1. Resumes: You will need to obtain detailed resumes of the workers’ training and experience
    2. Training check: You will require background information about their trade credentials and any other training that they may have undergone
    3. Reference checks: You will need to contact previous employers to verify workers’ credentials. A review of payroll stubs and income tax receipts, where these are available, may also prove helpful
    4. Video Interviews: An employer may gain a useful introduction to candidates by way of short video clips, in which applicants provide a brief overview of their training and experience. Depending on resources available in the foreign country, this may be fairly easy to arrange

  4. Assess Eligibility for admission to AIT Exam:
    The next step is to ensure that candidates are eligible to write the relevant trade qualification exam. For each trade, AIT has established a minimum work experience requirement that candidates must satisfy in order to be permitted to write the exam. Where a candidate’s eligibility is uncertain, the file should be reviewed with AIT.

  5. Preparation of the AIT Application:
    Once it is clear that a candidate is eligible to write the qualification exam, it will be necessary to prepare the AIT application. This will require the completion of the relevant forms, together with a report on the results of the background checks on the candidate. Where available, AIT should also be provided with details and contact information for the candidate’s employers and educational institutions. In a nutshell, it is to your advantage to make it as easy as possible for AIT to approve the foreign worker’s application.

  6. Selecting and Interviewing Foreign Workers:
    After you have selected qualified candidates, there are at least 3 interview options open to you. You may choose to interview the candidates overseas; or via telephone; or through video conference facilities. You have less control with the last two, and some candidates have been known to have other people represent them at the “interview”!

  7. Job Offer:
    Once you have interviewed the candidates and made the hiring decision, you would make a written job offer to the worker. This offer would be for an initial period of 6 months and could be extended, subject to the candidate passing the qualification exam. It is important that the wording of the job offer satisfies the immigration authorities, and, if necessary, you should obtain professional assistance in this regard.

  8. Work Permit Application:
    The next step in the process is to submit the application for the candidate’s 6-month Work Permit to an overseas Canadian immigration office. This application can be lodged either in the country where the candidate is lawfully residing, or in the country of his nationality.

  9. Arrival in Canada:
    During the period of the 6-month Work Permit, the foreign worker may work as an Apprentice in Alberta, meaning that he would require supervision by a Journeyman.

  10. Training for Exam Preparation:
    Once the foreign worker is employed in Canada, he should start to prepare for the AIT qualification exam. The courses that are required will vary from trade to trade, and there are a number of institutions providing this training. Lakeland College, of Sherwood Park, Alberta has been found to be a leading provider of this training and comes highly recommended.

  11. Writing the Qualification Exam:
    Candidates should be scheduled to write the qualification exam as soon as possible after the completion of the required training, while the knowledge is still fresh in their minds. If necessary, workers can be provided with interpreters while writing the test.

    In the event that a candidate fails the exam, his weak points should be assessed by way of a post-exam analysis with his instructor. The candidate should then maximize his prospects for success by rewriting the exam as soon as possible.

  12. Successful Completion of the Exam:
    Once the worker has passed the qualification exam:

    1. He will be qualified as a Journeyman in Alberta; and
    2. The employer can apply for an extension of his Work Permit beyond the initial 6-month period, usually for at least 2 years