A coalition of Alberta business groups is calling on the federal and provincial governments to work with industry to address labour shortages in western Canada.

"Every sector of the economy will be hit hard by a shortage of workers," said coalition spokesperson Richard Truscott, Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.

"Governments and industry must work together quickly to explore opportunities to improve temporary worker and permanent immigration programs to meet the needs of a growing economy."

The Alberta government is forecasting there will be 114,000 more jobs than people to fill them in coming years, he said.

This shortage of labour will slow economic growth, costing jobs and reducing government revenue, said business groups.

The coalition is asking government to:

  • Change the Federal Skilled Worker Program to place greater emphasis on labour demands.
  • Make it easier for temporary workers to become permanent immigrants.
  • Change National Occupation Codes to reflect employer needs and recognize a broader range of skilled positions.
  • Streamline the Temporary Foreign Worker application and approval process.

"What’s needed now is the recognition that we must aggressively recruit in international labour markets," said Tim Shipton, President of the Alberta Enterprise Group.

"We need to recognize that we are competing not just with the United States, not just with western Canada, we are competing globally for a small pool of skilled workers out there so we need the system to become much more responsive and streamlined to the needs of the economy, he said.

The Alberta government agrees the cap on immigrant workers allowed to come to the province needs to be much higher, said Shipton.

Currently the federal government has set the cap at 5,000 workers, while Alberta wants the number raised to 10,000.

"We will be more successful in this effort if the federal and provincial governments make the necessary changes to help employers gain access to the human resources we need," Shipton said.