Canada’s tech talent industry tracks renewed interest with permanent Global Talent Stream


Among the federal government’s proposals in #Budget2019 last month, the Global Talent Stream (GTS) was made permanent. Launched in 2017 as a pilot project, the program was designed to expedite the immigration process for workers in high demand to Canada.

With the program now permanent, some Canadian job-matching organizations are seeing a spike in international interest.

The Global Talent Stream is a federal government program aiming to help companies quickly access international high-skilled talent that is otherwise unavailable in Canada. The government reduces the processing time of immigration applications to two weeks, with a $1,000 fee paid by the employer to the government.

“It’s good to see us joining more progressive countries and realizing that the war for talent is real and necessary.”
-Ilya Brotzky, VanHack

Global Skills Hub is a Toronto-based organization helping Canadian startups find and hire international talent, by assisting with the immigration and process and assimilating international applicants into Canada’s workforce. The organization told BetaKit that it has experienced a surge in website traffic and online posts, including one post on VK, a Russian social media platform, which shared stories of the announcement on the federal budget.

Between February and March 2019, Global Skills Hub noted 249 people starting applications on its website. In the week after the Global Talent Stream was made permanent on March 18, the organization reported 1,331 people starting an application, a more than 136 percent increase from the previous month.

VK Post Budget

Kevin Bracken, a researcher for Global Skills Hub and partner with Caravan Ventures, told BetaKit the announcement that the program has gone from pilot to permanent created a “huge sense of relief and elation” from its existing global candidate pool.

“We’ve always had a steady stream of applicants from places like India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Brazil, but Eastern European applications are off the charts since the announcement,” said Bracken. “We source candidates in a variety of ways, and our website has not traditionally been the way most people find us, until last week.”

RELATED: Ontario’s budget looks to create tech-focused talent stream, panel for scaling innovations

Other organizations told BetaKit that they have also seen perceptible increases in traffic and interest but can’t definitively attribute the swells to the budget announcement.

Klaudios Mustakas is an immigration consultant and former senior manager with the Canada Border Services Agency and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Mustakas currently works with Terminal, a company that partners with VC-backed tech companies from Silicon Valley to launch and scale teams in Canada. Mustakas said given that the GTS is an employer-driven program, a sudden increase in interest from candidates would not necessarily lead to an increase in companies hiring foreign talent through the program.

“You have to be careful when people try to say ‘I want to use the [GTS] to come to Canada,’” Klaudios said. “Unless they have an employer who meets the qualifications of being able to put in an application under the program, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Outside of the Global Talent Stream program, employers need to first undergo a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) in order to qualify to hire foreign workers. Through the LMIA, companies have to advertise for 30 days in three different venues, including the federal government’s job bank. Once the advertising period is over, and the employer cannot find any qualified Canadians, then it can apply to the federal government for permission to hire foreign workers. A positive LMIA will show that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job and that no Canadian worker is available to do the job.

But the federal government has recognized labour shortages for several occupations. GTS is an alternative track under the LMIA stream. Instead of undergoing the lengthy processes required for obtaining an LMIA, employers hiring under a GTS category do not need to conduct or adhere to Economic and Social Development Canada’s recruitment and advertising requirements. If the employer can qualify under the GTS, the hiring process can be expedited.

Online job marketplace Indeed recently noted a 58 percent jump over the past four years in clicks on Canadian tech job postings coming from abroad. Indeed economist Brendon Bernard said the results suggest the rising interest from overseas has played an important role in supporting the growth of Canadian tech jobs, without much loss of opportunities for tech job seekers within Canada.

A hotter topic of conversation

Irfhan Rawji, a partner at Relay Ventures’, is also CEO of MobSquad, which matches Silicon Valley startups with software engineers and data scientists in Canada. He noticed that the GTS has been a hotter topic of conversation at MobSquad since the program was made permanent.

“One of the things that people were thinking about, was that they wanted to know the strategy was a long-term, sustainable strategy, and it wasn’t going to be something that was going to change,” Rawji said. “The knowledge of the program is growing, and the desire to use Canada, now that [the GTS is] permanent, is also growing.”

Before, when MobSquad was having inbound B2B conversations with potential employers, Rawji said he would expect five to 10 percent of people to call back. Now, he’s seeing more than 50 to 80 percent of people calling MobSquad back to engage in a discussion to learn more about the GTS.

“We’re also seeing talent come to us directly – foreign nationals that are in the US, asking if they can come to Canada with [MobSquad],” he said. “They’re tired of the pressure it puts on them and their families when they don’t know where they can put down roots.”

RELATED: Global tech talent drawn to Toronto feels warm welcome despite Visa delays

Obiora Imah recently immigrated to Canada from Lagos, Nigeria to work at Toronto-based FundThrough as a software engineer. In mid-March, he welcomed his second child, his first born in Canada. Imah said that for him, the GTS was an efficient process, and that he was very happy to hear the government was making the program permanent.

“I worked for several years in the tech industry in Lagos as a software engineer, but decided to move to Canada because of the economic situation in Nigeria,” he told BetaKit in an emailed statement. “The Global Talent Stream is affecting many lives positively around the world, by creating opportunities for people to fulfill their dreams. I tell every developer back home about the program, and I am really glad it is not going away.”

More awareness needed

VanHack is an organization that helps technology professionals and software engineers who are interested in working abroad or employing top talent. VanHack targets engineers, developers, designers, illustrators, as well as marketing and sales professionals who are interested in jobs that are open to hiring from abroad. Through VanHack’s Talent Pool feature, employers can access thousands of candidates who are ready to relocate to Canada and bring candidates in through programs like the GTS.

“This is a big, big step, because tech is driven by talent…it’s really about attracting the best minds from all over the world here.”
-Vikram Rangnekar,
Mov North

Founder and CEO of VanHack, Ilya Brotzky, told BetaKit the company has seen steady growth in interest in the two weeks following the Budget announcement, but nothing drastic.

“I think we’re definitely seeing an increase, but it’s not like a big notice, a big jump in the last two weeks. It’s been kind of growing steadily but nothing crazy,” Brotzky said. “But I think most companies don’t really know what the Global Talent Stream is, and we’re working to change that.”

Brotzky said VanHack conducts webinars and runs an educational series of blog posts for companies to show how the program works. While VanHack sees the need to simply educate people about the program, other organizations have noticed employers and candidates alike don’t even know what the Global Talent Stream is at all.

Vikram Rangnekar is the founder of Mov North, an online platform that connects companies with skilled workers looking for a new job. He told BetaKit that while discussions about the program being made permanent have been on the rise at Mov North, he said the problem is there is still not widespread awareness of the program. Rangnekar said educating candidates about the program is a big part of Mov North’s business.

“I think Global Talent Stream and the more know-how about that, generally caused an uptick in people reaching out to us, and just interest in moving from the US specifically, to Canada,” said Rangnekar. “I think the GTS is driving a lot of that.”

Like VanHack, Rangnekar said Mov North hasn’t picked up on a dramatic difference in website traffic, but noted that the GTS is a topic of discussion on its community page.

“This is a big, big step, because tech is driven by talent,” Ragnekar said. “It’s really about attracting the best minds from all over the world here.”

“I think what the government did here is very clever. They committed a certain amount of money to the education component [of the program], but by creating the visa, they also knew that they would create this ‘cottage industry’ of integration companies like ours,” said Bracken about Global SKills Hub. “They knew that it was going to be up to, not only the government, to educate people about this, but also the companies.”

Global Skills Hub found that approximately 53 percent of the people who applied on its website since the budget announcement said that they found the organization through social media, versus 14 percent normally. The organization told BetaKit that this suggests a strong word-of-mouth element overseas.

More than half (56 percent) of respondents said they are ready to come to Canada within 90 days, and the top three most sought positions are back-end developers (23 percent), full-stack developers (19 percent), and mobile developers (nine percent). More than 70 percent of respondents said they are open to any city in Canada, while about 17 percent are looking for jobs in Toronto, eight percent in Vancouver, and one percent in Montreal.

Despite the interest, Bracken agreed that there are still challenges facing tech talent companies. “One of our challenges in this space is, we need to be able to show them that this is for real,” he stated.

Business as usual

Regardless of which organizations experienced the greatest change since the budget announcement, everyone BetaKit spoke with seem to agree on the program’s value. Rangnekar said developing a tech economy is “absolutely critical” for Canada, and Rawji called the GTS a “great strategy for Canada to attract and retain talent.”

“It’s good to see us joining more progressive countries and realizing that the war for talent is real and necessary, and that there’s a really strong return of investment for bringing these highly skilled workers,” said Brotzky.

But the increased hype around the program won’t necessarily lead to any concrete changes.

Mustakas’ observations coincided with the tech talent organizations that haven’t shared Global Skills Hub’s massive traffic surge. He said fees, processing times, and the bureaucratic procedure will remain the same, and companies will be just as incentivized to use the program as they were when it was in its pilot phase, so he doesn’t expect much will change in the program being made permanent.

“It’s just the next logical step, basically,” said Mustakas. “I don’t think it’s going to open up the floodgates. It’s just it’s going to be another tool that an employer can use in order to fill their labour shortages.”

Image courtesy Unsplash.

Disclosure: both VanHack and Global Skills Hub have participated in sponsored content programs with BetaKit.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

One reply on “Canada’s tech talent industry tracks renewed interest with permanent Global Talent Stream”