Choose your language:

Hong Kong
New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States

Measuring the Impact of Changes to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Attracting and Retaining Skilled IT Professionals

Characterized by rapid growth, continual innovation and increased demand for quicker and better solutions, the IT industry is evolving at a fast pace. Technology trends require a unique set of skills, knowledge, and experience, and an organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent is a differentiator in a competitive market.

In Canada, hiring managers are further challenged by high demand and low supply. As a result, the government created the Temporary Foreign Worker program to help augment skills and labor shortages. Recent changes in this program have encouraged an increased focus on sourcing from the local talent pool before engaging off-shore assistance. With new guidelines in place, hiring managers should take a strategic approach to talent management in order to find the skill sets they need.

Labor Outlook

The Canadian labor market is experiencing a skills shortage, as employers in professional sectors report a disparity between the skills in the labor pool and the skills they require to fill their open opportunities. Under these circumstances, there are two primary solutions: local job seekers must acquire the skills needed by employers, or employers need to attract workers with the right skills to relocate.

Many employers aren't willing to modify their hiring needs, and Canadian candidates willing to relocate are rare. Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program was created to address and supplement labor shortages across various sectors and regions, encourage job creation and job retention, as well as promote knowledge transfer to Canada. Under this program, employers were able pay temporary foreign workers up to 15 percent below the prevailing wage for highly skilled positions. To ensure employers take the appropriate steps to search for local talent and complete due diligence prior to turning to off-shore candidates, the program also requires a lengthy determination process known as a Labour Market Opinion (LMO).

In 2012, the government introduced an Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (A-LMO) to provide employers with quicker access to talent outside of Canada. The A-LMO process decreased the determination time from months to within 10 business days of application submission. The acceleration allowed eligible businesses to increase efficiency and respond to hiring demands quicker.

Many employers aren't willing to modify their hiring needs, and Canadian candidates willing to relocate are rare.

Yet even with the program’s implementation and recent acceleration, searching for temporary foreign workers and navigating the regulatory processes is still a costly and time-consuming process. Recruitment companies and immigration consultants increased their footprint in the market by providing guidance to employers and recruiting talented non-local candidates to fill Canadian requirements. By year-end 2012, there were nearly 340,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada—a 73 percent increase since 2008.1 In early 2013, the foreign temporary workforce represented 37 percent of employment within the IT sector, compared to 23 percent of non-foreign labor.2

Changing Regulation

After several recent, well-publicized examples of potential misdirection of the program and the resulting public backlash, the Canadian government intervened. In mid-2013, the government revised the Temporary Foreign Worker program to increase the consideration given to Canadian candidates and refocus the regulation on its goal of supplementing short-term labor needs. These changes include:3

  • Elimination of the prevailing wage flexibility(formerly 15 percent less)
  • Suspension of the A-LMO
  • Introduction of an LMO processing fee

As a result of this reform, organizations seeking temporary work permits for off-shore resources will now face longer processing times and increased costs. The suspension of the A-LMO reverts the program back to the lengthy determination process needed to ensure the open position was advertised locally, and organizations may now face permit filing times of up to four or five months. In addition to the new processing fee, the removal of the price differential will also make off-shore recruiting a costly option.

A Strategic Solution

Due to these changes, organizations will need to increase their focus on recruiting locally. Given the skill set shortages and greater barriers to sourcing off- shore talent, organizations will need to take a strategic approach to assembling high-performance teams and staying ahead of new IT trends. By engaging a partner to help understand their business needs and evaluate skills in the local market, organizations can combat the limitations of the labor market to attract and retain the qualified professionals they need to drive IT initiatives.

Given the skill set shortages, organizations will need to take a strategic approach to assembling high-performance teams and staying ahead of new IT trends.

Assess organizational needs

When operating in the fast-paced IT environment, workforce requirements are often identified in response to new business, market and project requirements and may also stem from emerging technologies, in-house expertise gaps and demand for new skills or roles. Before posting a job opportunity, organizations should first examine which initiatives they’re undertaking and the required competencies needed to achieve these goals. This exercise will help create the job posting and determine the key success factors for the candidate.

Analyze the local market

In a competitive market, organizations need insight into the local talent pool. National averages and employment data can differ drastically from local employment statistics, especially when specific industry knowledge is a primary factor in a hiring decision. To make the best match, hiring managers need to be aware of the talent pool in each specific market and what the competition can offer them. A recruiting partner can help access the employment landscape, providing information on where the top candidates live, what they earn, when they are available and what they are looking for in a new position.

In a competitive market, organizations need insight into the local talent pool.

Provide insight into the role

As hiring managers reach out to the market, they need to understand and articulate the advantages of the open opportunity. Candidates need more information than ever before—often requesting information beyond the immediate opening, such as corporate culture, career path plans, development opportunities and organizational stability. In times of high demand and low supply, a strong employee value proposition (EVP) will attract sought-after candidates to an organization. However, many hiring managers reduce this step— sometimes even eliminating the information gathering process and subsequent opportunity for a dialog—due to time and resource constraints.

Source candidates from many channels

With a small pool of qualified talent in the market, finding top candidates is a challenge. Candidates are active on a variety of networks, including job boards,professional networks, referrals, individual company career pages and social media sites. More than half of IT professionals consult with a recruiter during the job search process, relying on this resource over colleagues, friends and networking communities.4

Screen and select candidates carefully

Resumes often contain buzzwords that are irrelevant to actual experience, and it’s difficult to uncover actual competency levels from a resume alone. Recruiting partners with defined qualification processes can vet candidates against specific criteria, presenting only those applicants who match the needs of the open role. With thorough screening, a hiring manager can uncover the specific skills and capabilities essential to the open position and reduce the risk of hiring a poor match for the organization.

Build relationships to encourage retention

Once an offer is made, an organization must shift its focus towards employee engagement and development. Employee turnover is a significant issue, and in a tight, competitive market, organizations must understand the factors that drive employees to leave. What’s more, disengaged employees are a threat to organizational productivity and employee morale. By understanding employee development and identifying growth opportunities, such as special assignments or leadership roles, organizations can increase employee commitment and encourage retention.

With insight into the labor market, organizations can better access local talent and remain competitive.


In the fast-moving IT industry, organizations rely on qualified professionals in order to meet their business goals. While finding the best candidates is challenging under favorable market conditions, Canada’s skills shortage makes attracting and retaining IT professionals especially difficult. With the recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, employers must refocus their efforts on sourcing local, non-immigrant candidates. With insight into the labor market, defined hiring and screening processes, and a strategic approach to talent management, organizations can better access local talent and remain competitive.

About TEKsystems®

People are at the heart of every successful business initiative. At TEKsystems, we understand people. Every year we deploy over 80,000 IT professionals at 6,000 client sites across North America, Europe and Asia. Our deep insights into IT human capital management enable us to help our clients achieve their business goals – while optimizing their IT workforce strategies. We provide IT staffing solutions, IT talent management expertise and IT services to help our clients plan, build and run their critical business initiatives. Through our range of quality-focused delivery models, we meet our clients where they are, and take them where they want to go, the way they want to get there.

TEKsystems. Our people make IT possible.

1Citizenship and Immigration Canada. “Canada – Temporary foreign workers present on December 1st by province or territory and urban area, 2008-2012.” Retrieved from

2Information and Communications Technology Council, Quarterly Monitor of Canada’s Digital Economy. Q1 2013.

3 Fitzpatrick, M. (2013, April 29). “Foreign worker program gets new rules, higher fees.” CBC News. Retrieved from: Mas, S. (2013, August 7). “Temporary foreign workers to cost employers $275 each.” CBC News. Retrieved from:

4TEKsystems IT Professional Perspectives survey, January 2013.