The Alberta government has launched a new immigration stream meant to help tech companies solve an access to talent issue.
On Thursday, the province announced the creation of the Accelerated Tech Pathway, which will provide a fast track to permanent residence for highly skilled tech professionals that want to live and work in Alberta.
The new immigration stream – part of the federal-provincial Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) – is something the Alberta tech and innovation community has been calling for as companies face a shortage of qualified tech talent.
“Especially within Alberta, like there’s around zero percent unemployment in tech. And that’s really why we need programs, to bring global talent,” said Bronte Valk, the Alberta-based government relations manager for the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI), who called the new stream “very good news for Alberta scale-up companies.”
CCI, which works on behalf of its more than 140 Canadian tech members, had called on the provincial government to add this tech stream more than a year ago; including the suggestion in its 2021 pre-budget submission. Valk noted that CCI had been working with Alberta’s ministry of labour on this program for a while, and had expected it to be announced this past summer.
Valk noted that, prior to the creation of the program, Alberta was one of the only provinces with a major tech hub that did not have this type of local immigration program. She pointed to British Columbia’s PNP Tech Pilot, Québec’s Information and Communication Technology Requalification and Training Program, and the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, which looks for tech talent.
“Companies are facing challenges in attracting highly-skilled technology talent given the substantial and increasing demand for this talent,” Arif Khimani told BetaKit.
The president and COO of MobSquad, which helps international tech workers access Canadian work visas, added, “finding the best technology talent requires searching around the world, and this pathway helps provide an advantage to those recruiting in Alberta as it offers an attractive, fast-tracked path to permanent residency for the best global talent.”
Valk added that Alberta companies are not only competing with international or major tech companies for talent, but the province’s oil and gas sector. “There’s a huge need for us to get really competitive with the sort of immigration programs that we have,” she said.
While the Accelerated Tech Pathway stream fills a much-needed gap for individual tech workers, it is not the first tech-focused immigration stream in the AINP program.
In late 2020, Alberta launched an immigration stream that provides permanent residency to international graduates from Alberta’s universities and colleges that want to launch a business venture or startup locally. While that stream helped bring founders to Alberta, it didn’t address the more pressing issue of the tech talent needed by quickly scaling companies.
The AINP is an economic immigration program that nominates individuals for permanent residence in Alberta. The province made promises about the stream launched in 2020 in its 2020 economic recovery plan and budget.
The new stream is part of a push from the provincial government to grow Alberta’s tech ecosystem. The government reports that Alberta is home to more than 3,000 technology companies, a 233 percent increase since 2012. But, after realizing the value of the tech sector locally, the province has been looking to increase that number in recent years through programs that bring in international accelerators and by creating the refundable tax credit for research and development.
“We hope this pathway helps bring the best global technology talent to Alberta, which in turn will help companies grow faster and compete on an international scale,” said Khimani.