Brexit triggers an exodus of construction workers seeking a move to Canada from the UK

Uncertainty over Brexit has sparked a wave of interest among construction workers in a move to Canada from the UK. Ruairi Spillane shares his view as founder of Outpost Recruitment, which specializes in helping international talent find construction roles in Canada.

Rising political and economic uncertainty associated with Britain’s impending exit from the European Union (“Brexit”) has led to a sustained drop in construction activity in the UK. Growth in the construction sector fell to a one-year low in August. Reduced government spending, economic uncertainty and Brexit-delayed decision making has led to a slowdown in construction activity.

With the UK construction industry now in contraction, construction professionals are now looking at a move to Canada from the UK for career opportunities. Young construction professionals aged 30-35 from 33 participating countries, including the UK and many other European countries, can now apply for a one- or two-year work permit through the International Experience Canada (IEC) Working Holiday Visa in Canada program, which opened on November 3, 2017.

The construction industry in Canada has continued to perform, with the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec leading the way in terms of construction activity. With strong residential property markets, steady ICI (Institutional, Commercial and Industrial) buildings activity and a Canada-wide boom in infrastructure spending, locations such as Vancouver and Toronto are among the top picks for construction workers looking to move to Canada from the UK.

Despite a sluggish industrial sector in resource-rich Alberta due to the sustained drop in commodity prices since 2014, the Canadian economy remains strong buoyed by a steady banking system and plenty of foreign investment. Though Canada boasts the third largest oil reserves in the world, prospects for a full oil and gas recovery remain slim.

A huge increase in infrastructure spending across Canada and booming property markets in Vancouver and Toronto has seen a power shift from the Prairie Provinces to the larger cities.

“Our national clients are now struggling to find experienced Project Managers, Superintendents and Estimators for infrastructure and buildings projects,” explains Ruairi Spillane, founder of Moving2Canada and Outpost Recruitment. Spillane is an Irish immigrant to Canada and has focused on assisting international construction talent relocate to Canada since 2012.

“It’s amazing given how many workers have been absorbed from the industrial sector over the past three years, but our clients are still seeking senior personnel. We’re expecting the crunch for experienced construction professional to intensify in 2018,” Spillane added.

The uncertainty around Brexit and its negative impact on construction has led to a steady stream of inquiries asking how to move to Canada from the UK. “My business is focused on British, Irish and European talent, as employers crave our strong balance between technical and personal skills. The construction market in the UK has traditionally competed with Canada for the best international talent, but we’ve found that recent slowdowns in the Middle East, Australia, and now the UK, have created increased demand for relocation to Canada.”

Experienced construction professionals can now obtain permanent residency in 6-8 months, and are attracted to Canada’s excellent quality of life and stable economy. According to the Economist, Canada boasts four of the top 10 most livable cities in the world (Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal). Canada recently announced a new immigration plan and intends to attract around one million new permanent residents over the next three years, so the future is bright for aspiring immigrants.

“With a steady economy and a robust merit-based immigration system, Canada is able to compete for the best international talent,” Spillane adds.

How to Move to Canada from the UK

Young British professionals with a desire to work and travel can move to Canada from the UK on a two-year International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit up until they are 30 years old (this age varies between 30 and 35 for the other participating countries). “The IEC UK program has been heavily oversubscribed in recent years, so we expect well over 15,000 applicants for the 5,000 spaces available to UK citizens.”

For those over 30 years old, gaining permanent residency is the most viable route to working in Canada, as employer sponsorship is often difficult to attain. “Employer sponsorship tends to be available only to Senior Project Managers, Design Managers and Estimators with tier-one contracting experience or construction professionals with niche rail experience,” states Spillane.

Outpost Recruitment works with Canadian employers across civil, infrastructure and ICI buildings. Clients include global infrastructure contractors, leading Canadian contractors and consultancies, developers and subcontractors serving the Canadian market.

Outpost offers a range of knowledge articles to help international candidates prepare to be successful in the Canadian labour market. With more than five years of experience, Outpost can coach newcomers through the entire relocation process.

Despite the labour shortage, Canadian companies can be conservative when it comes to hiring international talent. Outpost provide our candidates with crucial coaching to help them assimilate to the local construction market. “International candidates often underestimate how challenging it can be to find work in a new country,” Spillane added.

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