Canada’s Chief International Talent Officer, and the new commitment to skills immigration

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: November 17, 2023

In a recent report from Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), regarding a future plan for Canada’s immigration system, the department announced its intention to more closely align immigration priorities with (candidates who have) in-demand skills that can benefits Canada’s labour market and demographic challenges.

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This shift in priorities will be reflected at both the federal and provincial level and is now being taken one step further with the arrival of a new position: the Chief International Talent Officer (CITO). While not much is known about this role yet, IRCC has made clear that the responsibilities of the CITO entail the ability to affect a huge amount of change in Canada’s annual immigration.

What is the role of CITO?

Specifically, the CITO will be tasked with ensuring that Canada’s immigration policies continue to align “with a long-term skills and labour strategy”—a broad responsibility that encompasses smaller obligations that were further outlined in IRCC’s strategy and are discussed below.

Perhaps the largest responsibility of the CITO will be to monitor and understand Canada’s core labour needs, while developing (and advising on) plans of how immigration can best solve them. This involves not just addressing current economic pressures (such as consistent job vacancies in the construction and healthcare sectors), but also future considerations to Canadian sectors and industries encompassed within a longer-term sector-based strategy that the CITO will help develop. Interestingly IRCC has even identified the need for whoever takes the role of CITO to refine their own processes in this regard, describing them as the “innovator in this [new] role”.

To enable the development of these strategies, the government plans on creating a holistic approach to forecast future skills needs—one that the CITO would oversee, and that would be intricately tied to various sectoral strategies focusing on areas like agriculture, health human resources; as well as additional sectors requiring specific expertise that Canada’s labour force can’t currently meet. IRCC has expressed a commitment towards understanding regional needs and accounting for the requirements of Francophone minority communities in creating these holistic frameworks.

A new endeavour under the jurisdiction of the CITO is the organisation of global skills missions. These collaborative events will be organised with the needs of government representatives, employers, and stakeholders in mind, with a clear goal: to recruit the talent that Canada needs to thrive. Serving as a platform to connect immigration with skilled individuals worldwide, these global skills missions seek to present Canada as an attractive destination to settle, though little is known yet about their format and organisation.

A skills-based future

While Canada’s immigration system will retain crucial humanitarian, family and refugee streams for newcomers who need them, it seems clear by IRCC’s stated strategy, that in-demand skills will continue play a larger role in determining which economic immigrants will be offered permanent residence (PR) in Canada.

The creation of the CITO is just one part of this broader strategy. IRCC has also stated its commitment to further investing in foreign credential recognition and accreditation for skilled newcomers, and to emphasise the importance of in-demand skills to international students hoping to settle in Canada permanently.

These new announcements come in the wake of measures the government has already taken towards a skills-first immigration approach. These include the introduction of category-based selections for Express Entry, the launching of the tech talent strategy, and the continuing importance of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) in IRCC’s broader immigration strategy.

How can you use this information?

Individuals looking to immigrate to Canada in the next few years may see increased success by paying attention to, and (if possible) acquiring in-demand skills that IRCC will be searching for.

While not much is known about what these in-demand skills may be, due to their stated goal of meeting key labour needs, we can speculate that many of them may correspond to skills needed to fill key job vacancies in certain sectors. Healthcare and construction (as mentioned earlier) are two areas of labour that have seen continued job vacancies. In addition, further indication may be derived from what sectors are being targeted by the federal government through category-based selections (as these further reflect labour needs in Canada).

Lastly, per the new immigration strategy, IRCC will make efforts to inform newcomers of what skills may be in-demand in Canada, though not much is known currently of when and through what medium this will happen.

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