Sometime over the next decade Canada will cross a key demographic threshold. According to the government, net growth in Canada’s workforce will be met 100% by immigration.

Yes, that’s right. When netting out retiring baby boomers and dwindling levels of younger native-born Canadians due to our relatively low birth rate, it will be skilled workers from abroad who will ensure that Canada’s economy continues to grow.

In fact, it’s been happening for years now. Right now, Canada’s economy is as successful as it has been in generations. That’s in large part because immigration is bringing much needed skills and experience from around the world to fill the increasing gap between labor market needs and native-born population growth. What will happen sometime over the next ten years is that all of that gap will be filled by new Canadians.

And one of the best ways to fill that gap is through international students. Why?

To be accepted at a Canadian post-secondary institution, international students need to have some of the same skills that are key selection factors in the Express Entry portal:

  • English and/or French language ability at a reasonably high level;
  • Good secondary education;
  • The desire to earn a degree or diploma in areas that are and will be key to Canada’s future like engineering, design, tech, or visual arts, as well as many other areas.

Additionally, having spent several years at a Canadian university or college, international students will acquire some additional skills:

  • Improved language skills from living and studying in Canada;
  • Connections with professors and potential employers as well as with fellow students which often prove useful in future work careers;
  • The possibility of part-time work while studying thus giving them Canadian work experience;
  • A familiarity with Canada’s culture and society which helps them develop cross-cultural skills which also are gained by Canadian students who develop ties with international students and even study abroad using exchange programs, for example;
  • The possibility of full-time work in Canada after having graduated.

Because of the increasing relevance of soft skills like cross-cultural awareness for both Canadian and international students, as well as exchange programs for students in developing a trade-based economy like Canada’s, the government has announced a new multi-year program:


International Education Strategy (2019–2014)

The new strategy will be managed by the Trade Commissioner Service of Global Affairs Canada and will have several key objectives amongst its many goals:


More Students from More Countries

A key goal is to diversify the source countries for international students. Currently China and India account for over 50% of international students in Canada. Consider the following graphic:

Canadian Study Permit Holders in 20108 by Country

[click for larger]

While India and China will clearly remain important source countries for international students, the governments new strategy aims to increase the participation rate of students from other countries. As an example of an action taken towards this goal, the Student Direct Stream has recently added Senegal and Morocco as participating countries. SDS enables expedited study permit processing (usually within 3 weeks) for students who have been accepted at a Canadian post-secondary institution.


More Schools with More International Students

Another key objective is to increase government support for Canadian institutions to enable them to export their services (accept more international students) and expand their reach abroad. This means that this new strategy aims to steer more international students towards other universities and not just have them attend universities in Toronto or Vancouver, for example.

What this means is that international students will have a much wider range of universities and colleges to choose from. At IMMIgroup we’ve talked about college programs that international students should consider, and the options will only grow over time as more colleges and universities expand their abilities to engage with students from abroad. So, you don’t necessarily have to fret about getting into UBC’s medical school, or into the software engineering program at Waterloo. You’ll have a wide range of institutions to choose from.

In fact, it’s already happening. Consider this graphic:

Study permit holders by education level

[click for larger]

This graph shows the number of study permits issued by year and by the level of study involved. In other words:

  • ESL/FSL would be study permits to study English or French as a 2nd language in Canada.
  • K-12 would be kindergarten through high school.
  • College would be community colleges for example.
  • And University would obviously involve Canada’s universities.

What do you notice about this graph?

Look at colleges. The attendance at colleges in Canada on the part of international students has skyrocketed over the last 4 years, from around 50,000 to over 120,000. Colleges now account for the largest amount of study permits, just beating out universities. Clearly, international students are becoming aware of the wide range of educational options across Canada, and the government intends to provide further resources and support to encourage and broaden this trend.

But not only that, the new educational strategy wants to diversify across Canada’s various regions and provinces. Consider the following example of how international students help boost Canada’s economy and contribute to Canada’s culture:

Memorial by Nndd [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

by Nndd / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland was the meeting place for two international students: Joseph Tao from Malaysia and Sahand Seifi from Iran. They came up with an idea for a social media company that provides a platform for streamlining workflows at agencies that use social media as a business tool (which many agencies do nowadays). What happened next?

  • They secured $2.65 million in funding from investors.
  • They now employ more than 30 high-tech workers
  • They are a client of the Trade Commissioner Service
  • Their name? HeyOrca Inc.

This kind of success story is precisely why the Trade Commissioner Service is leading the charge with this new strategy. A cutting-edge social media company based in Newfoundland that provides 30 people with an innovative work environment. It doesn’t get better than that. But it’s only the beginning. In fact, it’s the future for international students in Canada.

So, what else does this new strategy entail?


More Connections Around the World

A 3rd goal is to increase the opportunities for Canadian students to work and study abroad, with emphasis on exchanges with countries in Asia. This can be done through a number of initiatives, including:

  • Setting up and expanding youth and student exchanges with countries abroad.
  • Developing educational partnerships with institutions abroad.
  • Recruiting international students for enrollment in Canadian educational institutions to establish more contacts and connections with educational institutions abroad.

In other words, as an international student, you will be sought after by Canadian university/college recruiters who themselves will be competing with institutions in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, and of course, the USA. And they are going to be looking for increasing numbers of international students in Canada, given the demographics of the country.

And that means more programs and support services designed to help you settle into student life in Canada. And that includes everything from a private vocational institution to working on AI projects at University of Toronto.

Don’t limit yourself when thinking of studying in Canada. The growing diversity of opportunities will surprise you.

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