Invest $50 million in wage subsidies for international students, says RBC Economics

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Canada should invest about $50 million in a pilot wage subsidy program for 7,000 international students in high-demand fields, say the authors of an RBC Economics report.

The report also says Ottawa should set three-year targets for the number of international students needed to fill jobs that require workers in Canada.

“Provinces should (also) develop a 10-year funding framework for post-secondary institutions that allows them to focus on a market-responsive education structure that is attractive to international students, but not overly reliant on these,” writes RBC Economics & Thought. Leadership Research Associate Ben Richardson and Editor-in-Chief Yadullah Hussain.

“Increase the proportion of immigrants with Canadian study experience within the economic immigrant category, with a focus on STEM, healthcare and trades that are critical to the energy transition.


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In their report, Course Correction: How International Students Can Help Solve Canada’s Labor Crisis published this week, the authors argue that international students are a mainstay of Canada’s immigration strategy, accounting for 17% of all new permanent residents each year and 40% of immigrants who arrive through economic immigration programs .

In addition to their numbers, international students also bring much-needed skill sets to the Canadian workforce.

“International students are twice as likely as domestic students to study engineering and more than 2.5 times more likely to study math and computer science, two main areas of projected labor shortages “, note the authors.


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The catch in the Canadian immigration system, however, is that these international students often face barriers to immigrating to Canada.

“Labour market misalignment and a complex immigration system could diminish our ability to retain international talent. International students are underrepresented in health care and the trades, and few are able to gain the same level of early work experience as domestic students,” the authors note.

Even as Canadian universities and colleges try to recruit international students to come to Canada, other countries are also vying.

In its attempt to attract and retain these international students, Canada must up its game, argue the authors.

Canada in fierce battle with other countries to woo international students

“There is a global war for talent,” say Richardson and Hussain. “Canada’s peers are refining their policies.

“The United States remains a magnet for international students given its Ivy League universities and job opportunities. Proposed changes to U.S. immigration laws also make it easier for students to enter and stay. in STEM in the country.

“The UK has launched a campaign to attract high caliber international students. Australia has also rolled out a 10-year strategy in 2021 to better align its international education provision with employment opportunities and source country diversification.

“Around the world, skills in fields as diverse as STEM, health, education, green jobs and advanced manufacturing are more in demand than ever and India, China, Malaysia and Singapore are making part of the growing group of countries seeking to attract, educate and retain knowledge workers.

Although Canada is recognized as a world leader in immigration pathways for international students applying for permanent residency, hiccups still exist, with some programs not being accessible to all students.

The Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) makes it easier for international students to gain work experience in Canada and start working without waiting for permanent residence applications to be processed.

More than 157,000 former international students became new permanent residents in 2021, of which more than 88,000 moved directly from a PGWP.

According to an RBC survey of international students, 39% had already applied for a PGWP and 55% said they intended to apply for one.

Private college students are often excluded from PGWP consideration

“But PGWP doesn’t apply to everyone,” the report notes. “Students from many private college programs are not eligible. It is also limited in time depending on the duration of the studies. To earn enough points for permanent residency, a student would have to string together any number and combinations of study and work permits.

Thousands of international students find themselves lost in what they often perceive as a maze of programs and requirements, desperately trying to balance work and study permits and extensions.

Some students use lawyers or immigration consultants. Colleges and universities also often offer services to help fill some of these gaps, but there are capacity limits.

“We need a ‘Team Canada’ approach to market the country as an education destination, not just in terms of dollars, but by engaging with Canadian businesses and civil society organizations that have deep roots in the countries and regions we target,” said Universities. The President of Canada, Paul Davidson, is quoted in the report.

Larissa Bezo, Executive Director of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, describes Canada’s immigration pathways before international students as “complex, dynamic and ever-changing.”

While constantly improving immigration pathways is a good thing, staying on top of these programs and trying to navigate them can be very, very difficult, Bezo says.

In their report, Richardson and Hussain recognize the enormous benefits of the PGWP in helping international students obtain permanent residency, but they also note that much more needs to be done to align the recruitment of these students with labor market needs. canadian.

“The 10-year conversion rate of international students to permanent residents in Canada is 33%, based on the cohort that started in 2010,” they write.

“For the PGWP, the standardized rate is 73%. The increased use of the PGWP since 2008 should increase Canada’s overall retention rate as more recent 10-year statistics become available. But a key question is whether Canada is doing enough to recruit and retain international students who match our labor market needs.

In Tuition fees for degree programs, 2021/2922Statistics Canada noted last year that Canadian universities are increasingly dependent on tuition fees from international students to stay afloat.

“In 2021-2022, average tuition fees for international undergraduate students in Canada increased by 4.9% over the previous year to reach $33,623,” noted Statistics Canada.

“This follows a 7.1% gain in 2020/2021. Increasingly, post-secondary institutions rely on international student earnings as part of their revenue stream.

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