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Canada Need To Do More To Retain International Students – New RBC Report

RBC Economics published a long in-depth report stating that international students can help in solving labour crisis in Canada, but there is need for the “course correction.” Report was published on September 1, 2022.

This article enlists 6 key findings and 7 recommendations in the report to better select and retain international students. So, this will be a long article and quality reading for your weekend.

1. International Students Are Key Pillar For Canada Immigration

Additionally, International students are also seen to be excellent candidates for permanent residency in order to replace an ageing workforce. Annually, 17% of all new permanent residents and almost 40% of economic immigrants had prior Canadian study experience.

RBC Economic Report

As per the report, With the number of foreign students expected to exceed 7 million worldwide yearly by 2030, up from about 5 million currently, other developed countries are looking for methods to educate and retain the greatest talent.

The report highlighted labour shortage in healthcare as a wake up call for Canada to sharpen its policies and retain international students. Furthermore, they report called upon to synthesize Canada’s international education and immigration strategy and setting up a clearer path for international students who want to permanently stay in Canada.

2. Canada is a top 3 global exporter of education services

Canada is a global education powerhouse, having recently surpassed the United Kingdom to become the third most popular destination for international students after the United States and Australia. Moreover, Canada is now only outperformed by Australia among major education centres on a per capita basis.

The high tuition fee & costs paid by international students as compared to domestic students, is now a profitable income stream for Canadian postsecondary institutions. This is also contributing to Canada’s position as a worldwide learning destination.

International Students

Canada being top three worldwide exporter of education services, international students accounted for around 12% of total Canadian service exports in 2019. In 2018, international students contributed more than $22 billion to the Canadian economy and supported more than 218,000 jobs.

3. International Students Are Rich Source Of Highly-Skilled Global Talent

International students are twice as likely as domestic students to study engineering and more than 2.5 times as likely to study math and computer sciences, all of which are in high demand. However, there is some disconnect between overseas students’ educational programmes and labour market demands.

To satisfy Canada’s future labour market demands, their numbers must increase in healthcare, various crafts and services, and education. To guarantee that overseas students are represented in courses with potential labour market opportunities, a more planned strategy may be required.

“The labour market and international education are not aligned well yet and we are not benefitting fully from the real power international students. With some adjustments to create the alignment, Canada can really benefit at scale.”

Martin Basiri, Co-Founder & CEO, ApplyBoard

4. The mix of international students is changing

The composition of international students is shifting, which may have an impact on future labour market matching and emphasizes Canada’s source nations. Enrolment of international students at public and private colleges has increased about twice as quickly as that of universities.

In 2020 one in every four students in Canadian short-cycle programmes (as short as 8 months) was foreign-born, as compared to 1 in every 9 in 2016. However, some students in short-cycle programmes have a lengthier road to the labour market and permanent residency, while others may not have a path at all.

International students

Canada has also experienced a change in the nations from which its students come. In 2017, India crossed China as the most popular home country for foreign students in Canada, accounting for about 34% of all international students. Between 2015 and 2020, the number of Indians with study permits increased by 270%.

The report says Canada’s lack of student source country diversification exposes its talent pipeline and services exports to market and geopolitical risk. For example, Saudi Arabia withdrew their students in 2018 following a diplomatic spat with Canada.

5. Student to Worker

Based on the 2010 cohort, the 10-year conversion rate of overseas students to permanent residents in Canada is 33%. The comparison rate for the PGWP is 73%. A significant proportion of students struggle to reach their full economic potential.

A main barrier to overseas students finding jobs after graduation is lack of work experience gained while studying. International students are are limited to 20 hours of off-campus labour each week during studies.

The reports suggests that some flexibility should be made allowing international students to gain significant Canadian job experience in their field of study while simultaneously helping to ease Canada’s skills deficit.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has already proposed that academically competent international students in need of financial support be granted work permit exemptions.

According to a Business Council of Canada poll, more than a quarter of firms identified challenges navigating the immigration system as a hindrance to hiring and retaining international talent.

6. Path To Permanent Residency

As per the report, global rivalry for top-tier international students is getting too hot. To help their talent-hungry employers, Canada’s peer nations are strengthening their immigration policies.

Bringing in international students is the first stage in the immigration process since they gain skills, culture, language, and networks that increase their likelihood of staying in the country.

Thousands of international students find themselves trapped in the maze that is the route to permanent residency once they finish school. Even for students with excellent credentials, determining which permanent residency track to pursue, can be difficult due to a lack of information and their potential employer’s unwillingness to traverse the immigration system.

RBC Report

Navigating a complicated system adds to student stress and may discourage many students from following their Canadian ambition. Simplified pathways and more public and private sector assistance would guarantee that Canada does not miss out on the benefits provided by Canadian-educated immigrants.

Below are the 7 Recommendations made by RBC Economics:

  • Governments and postsecondary institutions should collaborate to develop career, health, and settlement support services that promote student well-being and success.
  • Canada should consider setting three-year targets for the number of international students and providing direction on work study programmes that better match the skills required by provincial governments and businesses.
  • Provinces should create a 10-year financial framework for postsecondary institutions that will allow them to focus on a market-sensitive education structure that is appealing to, but not unduly reliant on, international students.
  • Increase the percentage of immigrants with Canadian study experience among the economic immigrant class with specific emphasis on STEM, healthcare, and in trades that are critical for energy transition.
  • The federal government should engage with other parties to develop a portal that clearly outlines the rules, pathways, and eligibility requirements for studying, working, and staying in Canada.
  • Postsecondary schools might commit to diversifying their source nations, with a focus on defining broad goals from the Student Direct Streams. Canada should also reach out to its free trade partners.
  • All entities, especially businesses, should provide more work-integrated learning opportunities for international students. The federal government may, for example, exempt students from obtaining an additional work visa for co-op terms and internships.
  • Furthermore, BHER (The Business + Higher Education Roundtable) and others might create programmes that better incorporate students into work-integrated learning opportunities.

Source: RBC Economics Report


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