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Express Entry for Skilled-Trade Workers

By: Alex Nikotina

Published On: November 19, 2015

Citizenship and Immigration Canada's Express Entry system is back in the news again this month, with Irish skilled-trade workers claiming the system puts them at a disadvantage by favouring those with post-secondary education.

What are the Concerns with Express Entry?

Express Entry is an immigration application management system that combines applications for the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class. The system was launched in January 2015, and has helped to shorten the processing time of applications. Express Entry also allows provincial governments to select the candidates that will benefit their workforce.

On the other hand, there are certain aspects of Express Entry that critics claim need to be addressed; one of them being the criteria by which candidates are selected. Currently, all candidates are assessed on the same set of criteria: age, education, language proficiency and work experience. Having a Provincial Nomination or a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)-approved job offer gives candidates a big advantage, accounting for 600 out of 1,200 points. According to Ashton College immigration instructor and Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) Nevena Djuricic, the system “values economic ability over education, language ability, ties to Canada and significant highly-skilled work experience. It's incredibly difficult for immigrants without a job offer or nomination to be selected.”

Interestingly, candidates have little control over the program they are applying under: all of the draws (with the exception of one) have been made based on the overall ranking score, and not on the specific program candidates were applying for.

Unfortunately, the Express Entry system currently puts skilled-trade workers at a disadvantage. Many skilled-trade workers do not have Canadian education, and education credentials from their home countries may not be significant enough for the Canadian Express Entry system. Currently, Express Entry assesses education points in several sections (in the Core Human Factors and Skill Transferability sections), and even having one year of postgraduate education can become a significant advantage to the candidate.

Without a certificate, diploma or a degree that is recognized in Canada, it is very difficult for the workers to score above 400 points – especially if they apply in their 30s. In order to get closer to the passing selection score in Express Entry, skilled-trade workers not only have to maximize their language proficiency score, but also their work experience – which can be hard to do with a limited work permits.

Many skilled-trade workers are not happy that their skills are measured by their education level, and not their achievements in the workplace. “Why would you go to Ireland and advertise that Canada needed you and when we came and settled, you are making it so difficult for us to stay permanently?”, asked one skilled-trade worker from Ireland with only 335 points under Express Entry.

What Can Be Done?

There are ways to improve personal scores through the current system, such as maximizing language proficiency scores, getting formal education in Canada, or securing an LMIA-approved job offer; but doing so takes extra effort, time and money. The prevalent opinion is that the current system needs to be changed to accommodate for the different requirements of each category.

Djuricic suggests CIC “create three distinct pools of eligible applicants in three distinct classes. Skilled trades and CEC applicants should not be competing against FSTW applicants, since, by requirements, they must have higher education, language proficiency and be younger in order to qualify as an eligible applicants.”

Express Entry is still a fairly new system, and the hope is that it will soon be changed to account for some of the disadvantages it poses for candidates, be it skilled-trade workers or recent graduates – a category that, in fact, meets the education requirements, but lacks work experience. All eyes are now focused on the new Liberal government in hopes for a review of the Express Entry system.


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  1. Rebecca Cutanda says:

    It would be better that there is a changes of “EE” applications. As I observed more of skilled trades -NOC B here Alberta were back in their own country . Most of them were done only on 2 years vacational/technical course which is not enough for the requirements of Express Entry standards.

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