Windsor under-utilizing immigration programs that could help fill employment gaps

The Chamber president believes immigrants could fix challenges of finding employees.

Chamber of Commerce lobbies immigration minister in Windsor-Essex

President and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce Rakesh Naidu spoke with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in Windsor. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce spent an hour with Canada's Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees outlining challenges companies are facing.

Chamber President and CEO Rakesh Naidu led the roundtable discussion which included people from the manufacturing sector, trucking industry and lawyers. 

"There is some challenge when it comes to getting the right workforce and immigration can be a solution for that," said Naidu shortly after the roundtable meeting ended. 

Minister Ahmed Hussen said that immigration could help the trucking industry in Windsor.

Minister Hussen, centre, listens to chamber member's discuss how the federal government can help fill employment gaps. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"We need 50,000 truck drivers today. Not tomorrow, not in five years," said Hussen. 

"For Windsor-Essex that's critical because a lot of your businesses here are in innovation, manufacturing and then shipping. How do you ship without truck drivers? You can't. Businesses can not grow when they don't have the workers."

Windsor not making the most of certain programs 

Naidu said that the chamber was made aware of programs that could help fill some of the employment gaps in the area. 

"Some of the programs have not been leveraged fully here, so that's good for us to know," said Naidu, citing specifically the Global Skills Strategy program.

"That's a program that has got a very short lead time to bring in the right candidate with the right skill set into the region, I'm told the time it takes to process is only 10 working days so that's a program that needs to be leveraged more," he said. 

Making the most of Canada's reverse brain drain

Hussen said that Global Skills Strategy is helping employers recruit and employ high skilled workers.

"We are attracting some of the most highly skilled people in the world now through our Global Skills Strategy," said Hussen.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen shakes Naidu's hand after their round-table discussion. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

He said that 25 per cent of the roughly 15,000 people brought in through the strategy are Americans. 

"There was a time when Canada used to lose its most talented individuals to the United States and now we're getting a lot of the folks coming this way because of our immigration system."

Making use of the border 

Members of the chamber were also able to outline challenges some employers have that are trying to use their close proximity to the United States as an advantage.

"I heard loudly and clearly some of the challenges facing companies here as they navigate the border when it comes to sharing researchers and technicians between different aspects of the company from Ontario and Michigan," said Hussen. 

"Thousands of trucks, machinery, goods, and people cross the border every day. For the Windsor-Essex region to continue to prosper it is vital that the movement of people and goods is un-hindered," said Naidu. 

"We must also leverage the talent and innovation that exists on both sides of the border. Streamlining the process that allows researchers, engineers and technicians to cross the border with ease will significantly assist the companies to leverage the skills and talent that exist on both sides of the border."