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Sudbury Mining Solutions

Skills & Knowledge

Foreign workers trickle in

Steve MacNeil, an account manager with Levert Personnel Resources in Sudbury, is hoping to make a trip to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in the next few weeks to welcome five tradesmen from the Philippines recruited on behalf of several local clients.

Interest in recruiting foreign workers has picked up in the last few years as mining companies and suppliers struggle to find skilled workers.

Levert specializes in sourcing qualified tradesmen and other professionals to fill positions in industry, but the voracious demand for workers is forcing the company to look farther afield. Much farther.

Levert is focusing its recruitment efforts on Asia and Eastern Europe to fill positions in Northern Ontario’s mining and mining supply and service sector.

“Canada will need 70,000 employees to work in the mining industry over the next three years,” said Dan Newell, international consultant for Levert. Most in demand are miners, mechanics, millwrights and welders.

However, working with overseas recruitment companies to source qualified workers and navigating through the federal government Temporary Foreign Workers program to secure work permits for them can be difficult and time consuming.

“We attempted the process six months ago and what we got from that was a lot of fantastic learning, which allows us to streamline and expedite the process,” said MacNeil.

Representatives from the federal and provincial governments were in Sudbury in March to seek input from the city’s mining industry for an agreement the two levels of government are negotiating to streamline the application process.

Larry Hynes, manager of the business immigration section for Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, said he hopes to see an Annex to the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement signed “within the next couple of months.”

Working with the federal government to educate employers about the foreign worker application process would be one way the Ontario government might be able to help, said Hynes.

“Some companies are quite familiar with the process because they have recruited internationally or they have transferred staff in from their international operations, but a lot of companies aren’t familiar with the process.

“If there are other specific provisions that might come up in the Annex that could be helpful, that really remains to be seen,” said Hynes.

Human Resources and Social Development Canada touts several recent initiatives to streamline the application process. In December 2006, the Ministry unveiled a list of occupations under pressure in Ontario. Employers recruiting workers for occupations on the list do not have to demonstrate efforts to recruit and advertise domestically. Unfortunately, there are hardly any occupations on the list reflecting the mining industry’s needs. Miners, millwrights, welders, mining engineers and geoscientists are absent. Only heavy duty equipment mechanics made the list.

MacNeil complained that the list reflects labour market opinions resulting from applications that have been made in the past and doesn’t reflect current labour shortages.

The list comes under federal jurisdiction, “but if there’s a way for the Ontario government to provide input, that might be something that could come out of the Annex,” said Hynes.

Employers recruiting temporary foreign workers for occupations on the list would be relieved of the requirement to seek a labour market opinion from Service Canada, a process that usually takes three to four weeks.

Even without the need for a labour market opinion, recruiting, interviewing, verification of credentials, medical examinations, security checks and work permit applications can still take six to eight weeks, said MacNeil.

The federal government also touts a recently published Temporary Foreign Worker Guide Book for Employers “developed to explain in employer-friendly language how an employer…can hire a foreign worker using the Temporary Foreign Worker Program,” but “Do I think it’s user friendly? Absolutely not,” said MacNeil. “It’s produced by the government.”

Levert relieves employers of all of the headaches associated with the recruitment of temporary foreign workers. Working with recruiters in Eastern Europe and Asia, the company identifies prospective candidates, verifies their credentials and looks after all of the paperwork. Levert staff also assists in integrating the foreign workers into the community, meeting them at the airport and finding accommodations for them.

“It’s our intention when we go to Pearson International Airport that we’ll have someone from the local Filipino community to welcome them,” said MacNeil.

For many skilled tradesmen, engineers and other industry professionals, the luster of a Canadian career is about more than cold hard cash.

“Many of these workers can make as much, or more, money in Saudi Arabia or Australia,” said Newell. For many workers, a temporary, two-year work permit may be the first glimmer of hope leading eventually to a permanent future in Canada

. “Many of them,” Newell said, “want to come to Canada, raise families and become citizens. So this is a big draw for us.”

Information about hiring temporary foreign workers can be found on the
Service Canada web site at


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