Express Entry targeted occupations: How many STEM workers does Canada need?

Julia Hornstein
Published: October 5, 2023

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs are one of the five categories of occupations that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is choosing to prioritize through Express Entry category-based draws in 2023.

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Express Entry category-based draws launched earlier this year. Express Entry selects immigrants with particular qualifications such as education, work experience or language skills to support identified economic needs and priorities.

After gathering feedback and suggestions from a broad range of stakeholders and the public, the federal government chose five priority occupational categories experiencing labour market gaps: healthcare, STEM, transport, trades and agriculture/agri-food.

Category-based draws differ from standard Express Entry draws, as they emphasize and prioritize candidates with specific work experience while standard Express Entry draws focus primarily on a candidate's Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score.

Why STEM was chosen as a targeted Express Entry category

At the end of 2022, Statistics Canada released a report stating that there is a gap in the skills needed for Canada’s STEM labour force. This gap is primarily due to high levels of retirement and the evolving technology and automation of businesses and everyday life.

Canada’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector is growing rapidly, which has increased the demand for tech workers. Canada was ranked fourth for its global competitiveness in innovation, implementation, and investment by the Global AI index.

“One of Canada's greatest strengths is its ability to attract talent. This new STEM-focused category-based selection round will support our science and technology sector and its workforce, by attracting even more of the skilled talent that companies need to drive innovation and realize their growth potential,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, when IRCC announced the first STEM category-based draw.

Minister Champagne added, “combining its unparalleled ability to attract talent with the innovative capacity of its entrepreneurs, Canada is the best place in the world to start and scale a technology company.”

How many STEM workers does Canada need?

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) operates a tool called the Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS). COPS provides information on the occupational outlook for different professions and calculates the number of projected job openings in a particular profession over the 2022 to 2031 period.

Some STEM profession outlooks include:

  • Software engineers and designers: 44,300 new job openings
  • Computer programmers and interactive media developers: 80,500 new job openings
  • Civil engineering: 26,100 new job openings
  • Mechanical engineering: 12,700 new job openings
  • Industrial and manufacturing engineering: 3,800 new job openings
  • Electrical and electronics engineering: 12,600 new job openings
  • Mathematicians, statisticians, and actuaries: 4,600 new job openings
  • Technical occupations in physical sciences: 12,200 new job openings

These figures suggest that Canada will require hundreds of thousands of new skilled STEM workers to fill the coming job openings and address labour shortages in this country.

What opportunity does this present for prospective immigrants to Canada?

According to the 2022 year-end Express Entry report, the top three primary occupations among 2022 invitation to apply (ITA) recipients were all in the technology industry. In particular, software engineers and designers, information system specialists and computer systems developers and programmers were the most common occupations among candidates invited to apply through Express Entry in 2022.

Therefore, skilled STEM workers who are interested in immigrating to Canada may be eligible to come to the country through category based Express Entry draws for STEM workers. These skilled workers will help fill labour market gaps and build the STEM sector of the Canadian economy whilst have meaningful careers in Canada.

History of STEM Express Entry draws to date

So far, IRCC has issued one round of invitations specifically for skilled candidates in the STEM occupations.

The draw took place on July 5th, and 500 immigration candidates with work experience in STEM were invited to apply for permanent residence in Canada. For this draw, candidates had a minimum CRS score of 486.

You can use this link to see the results of every Express Entry draw conducted by IRCC, as the page will be updated when a new draw occurs.

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