Who Should Consider the Federal Skilled Trades Class?

(The following is an article that I wrote for the March 2013 edition of Canadian Immigrant Magazine)

On January 2, 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) opened the Federal Skilled Trades Program (“FSTP”).  CIC will process up to 3,000 FSTP applications in 2013.  For certain people, the FSTP will be an attractive alternative to those who fall through the cracks of the Federal Skilled Worker Program (the “Skilled Worker Program”) and the Canadian Experience Class (“CEC”).

To be eligible for the FSTP, applicants must meet five requirements.

First, they must have twenty-four months of work experience in an eligible skilled trade during the five year period preceding their application.  CIC has designated forty-three trades as being eligible for the program.  Of these, seventeen occupations are capped at 100 applications.  Applicants will accordingly need to check the CIC website to see whether the quota has been reached for their occupation prior to applying.

Second, applicants must have an offer of continuous full-time employment in Canada from up to two employers for a total period of at least one year in their skilled trade.  As “full-time” means at least thirty hours of week, applicants could be eligible if they obtain offers from two employers who provide fifteen hours each per week.  The effect of this requirement is that most FSTP applicants will have to obtain job offers from employers who have been issued positive Labour Market Opinions from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (“Service Canada”).  Alternatively, applicants do not need a job offer if they possess a Certificate of Qualification from a provincial or territorial Apprenticeship Authority.

Third, applicants will have to satisfy the employment requirements of their skilled trade as described by Service Canada’s National Occupational Classification system.

Fourth, applicants must meet or exceed minimum language thresholds.  However, the language requirements for the FSTP are much lower than they will be for the new Skilled Worker Program, and are also slightly lower than those for the Canadian Experience Class.  Currently, FSTP applicants must achieve Canadian Language Benchmark (“CLB”) 4 in Speaking and Listening, and CLB 5 in Reading and Writing.  For those taking the International English Language Testing System (“IELTS”), this corresponds to a 5.0 in Listening, a 5.0 in Speaking, a 3.5 in Reading, and a 4.0 in Writing.

Finally, applicants must intend to reside outside of Quebec.

So… Who is this Program For?

At first glance, one might wonder who the FSTP benefits.  Every occupation which is eligible for the FSTP is also eligible for the CEC.  With CIC reducing the CEC employment experience requirement from two years to one, won’t most people who are eligible for the FSTP also be eligible for the CEC, and not worry about quotas and caps?

As well, if an applicant has an offer of employment from a Canadian employer which qualifies for the FSTP, then he/she will also likely have arranged employment which makes qualifies for the Skilled Worker program.  Besides the fact that CIC lately appears to be in the habit of terminating Skilled Worker applications, is there any reason why someone with a job offer would apply to the FSTP over the Skilled Worker Program?

Yes.

The first category of people who will benefit from the FSTP are those whose IELTS results do not meet the requirements of either the CEC or the Skilled Worker Program.  The Skilled Worker Program’s language requirements are about to increase dramatically to CLB 7 for all abilities.  Many people with good English simply will nonetheless be unable to achieve these test results.  For tradespersons applying in NOC 0 or A occupations, the difference in language requirements between the FSTP and the CEC is also significant.

The second group of people who will benefit from the FSTP are individuals who do not have job offers, but who have Certificates of Qualification.  The FSTP also benefits people who wish or need to work for more than one employer.

Finally, the third category of people who will benefit from the FSTP are those whose previous employment experience was gained through self employment.  Many tradespersons in Canada gain their experience as independent contractors.  This experience does not count towards the CEC, but it does towards the FSTP.

CIC is promoting the FSTP as being away to facilitate the permanent entry of skilled tradespersons into Canada.  Many of these people of course already had pathways to permanent residency through the CEC and the Skilled Worker Program.  The FSTP, however, seals some of the cracks in these other two programs which many tradespersons who will make valuable contributions to the Canadian economy sadly previously fell through.


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