Express Entry Missing out on Selecting Skilled Tradespersons

January 2017

My daughter just finished her first semester at the University of Ottawa. As a first year business student, she had no elective courses.  Her best mark after her first semester?  Philosophy.  Her worst?  Economics.  It seems to me that it should be the other way around.  But the problem is that although she’d probably do better in a social sciences or humanities program, she wants a job when she graduates.  So she has chosen a program of study that she feels will lead to job opportunities. 



Her younger sister is only in Grade 9, so we won’t hold her to this, but she has her sights set on a career as a carpenter. She’s one of the few girls in her high school shop class.  If she sets up her own business after becoming a journeyed carpenter, I’m sure she’ll have no shortage of widowed baby boomers and single women who would feel more comfortable hiring her than one of her male colleagues. 


As a mother who hopes her children will have employable skills upon graduation, I recognize that that certain programs of study will lead to better opportunities. The Express Entry program, however, fails to recognize that not all post-secondary programs lead to employable individuals.

Express Entry is designed primarily to select those who have worked, or who have studied and worked, in Canada as temporary residents. Based on the changes that came into affect to the points system on November 19th, the government now hopes that about 40% of those invited to apply for permanent residence will be individuals who studied in Canada. 

For those applying from outside Canada, age, education, and language abilities are the primary indicators of whether someone will have enough points to be selected for Canadian immigration.

Currently, a 29-year-old Master’s graduate with superior language skills and 3 years of foreign work experience would get 481 points (*based on having language test results in only one official language, and applying as an unmarried person). If that Master’s degree is in philosophy, and the skilled work experience is in a sales and service occupation (currently in decline in Canada), that person may have trouble finding work in Canada. And yet, that person is very likely to be accepted through the Express Entry system.

Contrast that to a foreign-trained carpenter. Carpenters are in demand in many parts of Canada. But if that carpenter is aged 35, has a one-year college diploma, and has fluent but not advanced language skills, the Express Entry system would only grant 291 points (*based on Canadian Language Benchmark level 7 in one language, with three years of foreign work experience and having acquired a certificate of qualification to work as a journeyed carpenter in Canada).  This individual is unlikely to ever be accepted through the Express Entry program.

The recent changes to the Express Entry points system reduce the points available for a having a government-approved job offer. Previously, 600 points were allocated for having a job offer supported by a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).  The 2015 Express Entry Year-End Report showed one person in the pool having a score between 600 and 649 points. Without the additional 600 points for the LMIA, this person had less than 50 points for their age, language abilities, education and work experience.  And yet, that person is likely now a permanent resident. 

Under the changes to the Express Entry system, only 50 points are granted for most LMIA-backed job offers. Our hypothetical foreign-trained carpenter would still only get 341 Express Entry points even with a LMIA-backed job offer.  That person would have to work at least one year in Canada to get enough points to qualify, in contrast to the humanities grad who could come to Canada without a job offer.

Thought I laud the way the Express Entry program is rewarding studies done in Canada, changes still need to be made. Canada needs to be recruiting a diverse array of individuals, and not just all Master’s graduates.