A white paper released by a post-secondary education organization says international students are going to be vital to Canada’s economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“Colleges and institutes are ideally placed to support Canadians and help their communities recover in the months ahead,” says Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan).
“Through their deep commitment to respond to the evolving innovation and skills development needs of local stakeholders and employers, they are poised to support a strong and sustainable economic recovery,” she says.
As Canada rebuilds its economy in a post-pandemic world, international students in particular will play a crucial role because of the skills and education they acquire and their tendency to seek out permanent resident status and work here upon graduation, states the report.
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In a typical year, more than 400,000 international students come to Canadian colleges and universities with a Canadian study permit and gain valuable work experience at the same time. Upon graduation, many of them get a post-graduation work permit and then apply for permanent residence in Canada through the Express Entry program.
In its white paper entitled COVID-19 and beyond: The role of colleges and institutes in Canada’s resilient recovery, CICan notes industry and business leaders have already identified a risk of labour market shortages and issued calls for more aggressive immigration targets.
“Immigrants and foreign workers at all skill levels bring a lot of experience and new ideas to Canadian workplaces and are often instrumental to the success of small businesses struggling with skills and labour shortages,” said Corinne Pohlmann, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ senior vice-president of national affairs, last year.
According to Pohlmann, immigrants often receive a great deal of help from their employers to integrate into Canada.
But international students, who have already been in Canada for years when they graduate, are in many cases already familiar with Canadian society and know how to seek out any help they might need. That makes them particularly sought-after by Canadian businesses facing labour shortages.
“The job market was already evolving before the pandemic, with advances in technology and the impacts of climate change pressuring traditional employment, and an aging population creating labour shortages that need to be addressed through immigration, with a particular emphasis on pathways to the labour market for international students,” CICan notes in its latest report.
“COVID-19 has only compounded these disruptions, creating a new sense of urgency.”
Ottawa is bullish on immigration and wants to welcome more than 1.2 million newcomers between 2021 and 2023. There are to be 401,000 new permanent residents to Canada this year, 411,000 next year, and 421,000 in 2023.
“Immigration is essential to getting us through the pandemic, but also to our short-term economic recovery and our long-term economic growth,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has said. “Canadians have seen how newcomers are playing an outsized role in our hospitals and care homes and helping us to keep food on the table.
“As we look to recovery, newcomers create jobs not just by giving our businesses the skills they need to thrive, but also by starting businesses themselves,” he said. “Our plan will help to address some of our most acute labour shortages and to grow our population to keep Canada competitive on the world stage.”
Designated Learning Institution
Eager to welcome international students back, Canada re-opened the door to them in late October last year, provided they were attending a Designated Learning Institution with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by their provincial or territorial government and agreed to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
“Colleges and institutes are ideally placed to support Canadians and help their communities recover in the months ahead,” states the CICan report. “Through their deep community connections, their commitment to respond to the evolving needs of local stakeholders and employers, and their proven track-record in terms of skills development, they are poised to support a strong and sustainable economic recovery.
“This starts by helping Canadians develop the skills they need to succeed in uncertain times and meeting the evolving labour requirements of employers, in part by attracting international students to Canada and helping them transition to the labour market and citizenship.”