The Ontario Trucking Association has asked to be included in a government program that allows immigrants who work in certain sectors to be considered for permanent resident status.
The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, through which provinces nominate immigrants who contribute to the workforce for permanent resident status, is geared toward jobs requiring “in-demand skills.”
The trucking group needs such skills. It wrote to Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Laura Albanese asking whether trucking could eventually be considered to participate in the pilot.
“I think trucking has as good a case as any for inclusion in this,” OTA Policy and Public Affairs Director Jonathan Blackham told Transport Topics. “I think some will see this as a way to recruit and attract more labor.”
Ontario uses the National Occupational Classification (NOC) system to indicate jobs based on skill level. The main job groups are divided into five levels: 0, A, B, C and D.
NOC level 0 refers to management positions, such as restaurant managers or shore captains. Level A jobs are those that require a university degree, like doctors and architects. Level B encompasses jobs that require trade school, such as chefs, plumbers and electricians. Level C positions require high school degrees and job-specific training and include butchers, food servers and truck drivers. Level D refers to labor with on-site training, such as fruit pickers and oil field workers.
The program, while usually restricted to NOC levels A, B, and 0, is being opened to seven C- and D-level occupations in the agriculture and construction sectors for the pilot.
“The NOC codes selected for this stream were based on labor market needs and input from trade unions, employers and other key partners,” said Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration spokeswoman Sara Amash. “The province of Ontario will closely monitor the pilot and make adjustments as necessary to ensure it meets the needs of employers.”
Trucking, which is classified level C, has had scant access to this program.
Trucking representatives have taken umbrage at the industry’s C-level classification. Blackham said that this classification means “essentially unskilled” is a misrepresentation of what it takes to be a commercial driver.
Blackham said that OTA and its parent group, the Canadian Trucking Alliance, have long argued for truck driving to get upgraded to NOC level B. He noted that, while every province’s immigrant nominee program is slightly different, some provinces allow truck drivers to participate in such programs.
“Our goal as the association has been actively lobbying to have truck drivers upgraded in terms of their skills classification,” Blackham said. “In the meantime, when it comes to [the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program], the fact that they’re now willing to look at class C for some jobs mean we have a glimmer of hope.”
Like America, Ontario struggles with a truck driver shortage. According to the Conference Board of Canada and the transportation research firm Canadian Pacific Consulting Services, the industry is on pace for a truck driver shortage of 34,000 drivers by 2020.
Although Blackham said trucking’s admittance into program probably would not fix the driver shortage completely, he did say it would make an important difference.
“We’ve got a severe driver shortage here. I don’t think this will be the silver bullet to solve the driver shortage here, by any means, but I do think that this is something that companies can take advantage of if they’d like,” Blackham said. “It’s so pronounced that I don’t think that any one program could just solve the driver shortage. I do think that carriers are looking for all the ways to recruit drivers that they can.”
Amash said that the Ministry is engaging with partners and weighing feedback from employers to determine the success of the pilot program. The agency recently hosted its annual Minister’s Employers Tables event to present the pilot program and garner feedback on how to improve the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program. Blackham attended and made a case for trucking, mentioning the driver shortage. He said that Albanese and her staff listened and asked questions.
Amash said the administration has not arrived on a decision as to whether the trucking association will be admitted to participate in the program in the future.
“[It’s] too early at [this] stage, but we always consult with various stakeholders through any pilot project,” Amash said.