Canadian Rental Service

Bring ‘em in – Using temporary foreign worker programs to staff your store

By Treena Hein   

Features Business Intelligence Government and regulatory labour

Expert tips on how to get the workers you need through temporary foreign worker programs

(Adobe Stock)

It’s very rare in Canada right now that a rental outlet store manager who’s seeking to hire workers is not struggling or failing entirely at the task. Mechanics are particularly hard to find.

Many, if not the majority, of rental stores across the country are in need of help right now and, even though these stores are offering excellent salaries, benefits and workplace perks, there just aren’t enough heavy equipment and small engine mechanics in our current labour pool. And no relief is in sight. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s whitepaper, “The Employer’s Roadmap: hiring and retaining internationally trained workers,” the Industrial Mechanic occupational group “is expected to face labour shortage conditions over the period of 2022-2031.”

What’s worse is that the pool of Canadian mechanics will continue to shrink with fewer young people choosing the career and so many retiring. Hiring from abroad is therefore something that many rental businesses are actively considering or already doing. There are costs to the process and it takes time, but if it results in securing one or more long-term employees, it’s well worthwhile.

IRCC believes internationally-trained workers “will play an increasingly significant role in Canada’s labour force.” Not only can these workers fill a critical position, but they can also bring additional language competencies, fresh perspectives and potential further employment connections to your business.

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Understanding that you may need to go abroad to find the skilled workers you need is one thing. Bringing them into the country to work for you is quite something else. Certainly the usual process of immigration to this country is too slow and uncertain. However, Employment and Social Development Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program is designed to address the need for companies to bring in help quickly and get them to work right away. Here’s how to take advantage of it.

Step 1: the LMIA
The first step for the employer is to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which enables you to hire from abroad through showing that there are no qualified mechanics in your surrounding domestic market. “In the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C., you need a provincial licence to apply temporary foreign workers,” explains Vance Langford, a Canadian lawyer and U.S. attorney in business and immigration law at Langford Law in Calgary, Alta. “It can take weeks or months to get that licence in these provinces. For one of our clients in B.C., it recently took four months.”

Langford also cautions that the area of LMIA procurement is rife with fraud. It could involve entities that don’t actually exist, for example, or entities that bribe companies to complete illegitimate LMIAs, all in order to get money from foreigners who want to enter Canada. There are also entities in Canada that will offer to do LMIAs at a low price and then not follow through. It’s therefore critical to work with a reputable and experienced firm.

The government fee for a LMIA is $1,000 per worker, even if you need three of the same type of worker at the same location. A LMIA is typically valid for two years once granted, which means that you can eventually offer the prospective employee named on the LMIA a contract and they can apply for a work permit of that duration.

Recruitment
Meanwhile, a reputable immigration lawyer will advise and coordinate with a recruiting agency. These companies must all be publicly registered as businesses in the province or territory where they are located. Recruiters can only legally charge a fee to the client business they are recruiting for and not to potential employees. Clients cannot in future try and obtain money from the new employee for that fee. Don’t play around with this rule…law enforcement is very conscious of the problem of unscrupulous agents arranging to get workers into the country in exchange for exploitive secret payments. Any attempt to get an employee to cover even some of these costs could be interpreted very poorly.

Once the LMIA is complete, a prospective employee maybe added to it after skills vetting and the application process has satisfied the client that this worker should receive a job offer. The recruitment agency will aid in ensuring the mechanic training of this worker is sufficient and facilitate online interviews, demonstration of skills and so on.

The prospective employee is then presented with a job offer (at the prevailing wage) and must then be assisted to apply for a work permit. Depending on the country the worker is coming from, he or she may also need to obtain a visa to enter Canada. Langford reports that the typical timeline to complete the LMIA and obtain a work permit is about six months if you are using an experienced firm.

“Experienced immigration lawyers know Canada’s overseas visa offices and prepare complete applications to streamline the process,” he explains. “It’s possible, for example, to obtain work visas at alternate Canadian visa offices responsible for the worker’s country. An alternate strategy could involve the worker traveling to another country, being lawfully admitted and applying for a work permit there.”

Arrival in Canada
Once the employee arrives, employers must provide the conditions outlined in the work permit. This is subject to government inspection, Langford explains, and if an employer is found in noncompliance, there can be monetary penalties and a removal of the ability to participate in the process of hiring foreign workers in future.

Some language training may be helpful to polish the new mechanic’s skills in English or French. IRCC also recommends cultural and communications training for new workers from abroad, which can help “workers interact more effectively with colleagues, suppliers and customers.” Providing an official mentor from your workplace for the new mechanic is also an excellent idea. The government urges employers to “remember that internationally-trained workers may have unique needs based on their cultural backgrounds, abilities, training and work experience.”

Down the line, you can help the new employee gain permanent residency through the Federal Skilled Worker Program or the Canadian Experience Class (and both these avenues can be used through a newish initiative called the Express Entry Program). Langford explains that permanent residents of Canada are free to work or move anywhere they like, but hopefully have been treated well by their new employer and wish to stay for the long term. Permanent residents, after two or three years, can apply for Canadian citizenship.

Total costs include recruitment agency fees (they vary), and processing and legal fees for the LMIA and work permit (ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per worker). Reputable immigration lawyers may agree to a flat fee up front. The worker will also likely need some transportation and initial housing costs to be paid by the new employer.

Changes to come
At the start of October, leadership at IRCC began implementing major changes to improve its operations. The blueprint for change is based on a report commissioned by IRCC and released earlier this year by a previous IRCC deputy minister, Neil Yeates. According to a recent CIC News article, Yeates concludes in his report that “the current organizational model at IRCC is broken” due to things like a tenuous operating environment and too many employees. He recommends many changes to organizational structure, management systems and workplace culture.

Vance notes that it would be beneficial for Canadian employers if IRCC were to reduce red tape for employers seeking to hire mechanics and facilitate their transition to permanent residence in Canada under Express Entry.

Anecdotes from rental stores that have tried the temporary foreign worker program are generally positive, sometimes enthusiastically so. So much so that they are sometimes reluctant to share their stories with Canadian Rental Service for fear of tipping competitors off. Red tape and paperwork is the main complaint about the program. But store owners are often thrilled with the people they get, referencing their skills, positive attitudes and keen work ethic. The main concern for stores using the temporary foreign worker program quickly turns to how to keep the employee in the country and in the business permanently. 


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