The Alberta government has rolled out changes to an immigration program to lure more workers and keep the economy humming.
Five improvements to the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program (AAIP) were announced on Monday designed to help businesses get the staff they need and to make Alberta more attractive to international skilled workers.
The Rural Entrepreneur program will see the investment threshold lowered to $100,000. The rural entrepreneur stream is aimed at immigrants who want to start up or a buy a business in Canada. A Rural Renewal program will be tweaked by removing the requirement for a letter from a settlement agency.
Steps have also been taken to recruit more medical professionals. A dedicated pathway has been created for medical professionals, which means up to 30 per cent of Alberta’s Express Entry System allocation this year will be reserved for health-care professionals who have a job offer from a health sector employer and who meet eligibility requirements.
A new phone line will directly connect AAIP staff with clients and provide a link with the federal Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot. The federal government sets the maximum number of people who can be nominated under the AAIP. In 2023, up to 9,750 nominations have been approved and numbers are expected to go up in coming years.
“Bringing more workers needed in the province will be key to continuing to grow Alberta’s economy and meeting our labour shortages,” said Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Rajan Sawhney in a statement.
“These changes to AAIP show our commitment to making Alberta one of the best places in the world to put down roots, contribute positively to your community and be prosperous.”
Alberta has about 100,000 job openings and the province is forecasting a cumulative job shortage of 33,100 workers across several skill levels, occupations and sectors by 2025. Last year, nearly 50,000 newcomers arrived in Alberta.
Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Robinson said chamber leaders were given a heads-up on the coming changes when they met in Edmonton last week and the moves were welcomed.
“At the end of the day, it’s the government responding to the desperate need for employees …” said Robinson.
When he speaks with central Alberta businesses about their challenges, workforce shortages are top of the list. Among the sectors in most dire need of help are construction, the energy sector, the service industry, and on a seasonal basis, agriculture.
However, the problem touches almost all parts of the economy. “It’s just an overall thing across many sectors and some are a little more worse off than others.”
While an economic slowdown has been predicted for much of the country, Alberta may do much better than other provinces.
“Alberta might not feel the effects because there’s so much going on and so much opportunity.”
A healthy economy is a good problem to have, but it means the demands for more workers will only increase.
Robinson said the provincial moves will likely take some time to have an impact, but he expects they will eventually provide some help.