Alberta companies looking to hire temporary foreign workers in one of 29 high-skilled job categories will be directed to a new service that will match them with qualified local workers.

The Alberta government initiative, believed to be the first of its kind in Canada, will be watched closely by the federal government to see if it can be implemented federally or in other provinces, federal Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said in Edmonton Wednesday.

Patty Hajdu

Patty Hajdu, the federal minister for employment, workforce development and labour, joined her provincial counterpart, Christina Gray, at Wednesday's announcement in Edmonton. (CBC)

"We're always interested in good ideas, to reach that goal — to make sure that Canadians have the first shot at good paying jobs — and so we'll be following the progress of the pilot very closely and all of that data will help inform us, but we are certainly open to replicating it if it show success in Alberta," Hajdu said.

The job categories covered under the new employer liaison service include civil and mechanical engineers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, construction millwrights and heavy equipment mechanics. 

Under the 24-month pilot program, those job categories will be placed on a "refusal to process" list within the temporary foreign worker program.

Instead, any company seeking a permit to bring in a foreign worker in those job categories will be contacted by staff in Alberta Labour and directed to potential local hires. 

Pool of unemployed workers

The job categories were selected because there is a sufficient pool of unemployed workers with those skills within Alberta.

The initiative was announced in Edmonton Wednesday by Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray. Hajdu was also there.

Gray said the program will be evaluated every quarter and future adjustments could be made to the job categories covered by the initiative.

"The data we gather, as Minister Gray has just finished speaking about, is going to be essential in deciding at a federal level whether or not there's application in other provinces or other regions that are experiencing downturn," Hajdu said.

"The focus of the federal government with the temporary foreign worker program is always to make sure Canadians have the first crack at available jobs, and then after that is done, then to look at supporting employers with prolonged labour shortages in very specific areas."
 

With files from Kim Trynacity