Evaluation of the Canadian Experience Class

5 Performance - Program Management and Resource Utilization

5.1 Program Resources

Finding: CEC total program costs have increased over time, corresponding to increasing application intake and processing demands, reflecting growth in the program.

Administrative data showed that the volume of applications received, as well as program resources, grew over time, with a substantial increase between FY 2012/13 and FY 2013/14. During this timeframe, the number of applications received increased by 76.3% and program costs increased by 121.9% (see Table 5.1).

Table 5.1:  Total Program Costs and Applications Received for the CEC by Fiscal Year (FY)
  FY 2009/10 FY 2010/11 FY 2011/12 FY 2012/13 FY 2013/14
Total program costsFootnote * $2.528M $2.129M $4.459M $6.645M $14.746M
Total applications receivedFootnote ** 4,931 5,065 6,726 9,340 16,470

Source: CIC, CMM (February 6, 2015); CIC operational statistics (February 24, 2015).

According to program documentation, the rapid growth in CEC application intake during this period can be attributed, in part, to changes to program regulations in January 2013, which decreased the amount of work experience required to qualify under the CEC. It was also recognized as having led to the creation of an inventory, as well as increased processing times, for the program.Footnote 49 In fact, operational data show that the CEC inventory more than doubled between 2012 and 2013, increasing from 9,523 to 21,889 persons.Footnote 50 As a result, a cap was introduced on CEC application intake, beginning in 2013. The annual cap was intended to prevent intake from exceeding the processing capacity of the department, and prepare for the implementation of the new Express Entry application management system.Footnote 51 Correspondingly, in 2014, the inventory decreased by 14.1% to 18,794, suggesting that the cap in conjunction with increased resources between FY 2012-13 and FY 2013-14 helped reduce the inventory and better manage resources for application processing.

While CIC interviewees generally believed CEC resource levels to be adequate, some mentioned the lack of permanent funding, which has been challenging. It was noted that CEC processing staff at Centralized Processing Centre Ottawa (CPC-O) were either engaged on contract or on assignment, resulting in ongoing staff turnover. However, at the time of the evaluation, the CEC had recently been approved for permanent funding. Additional funding was secured in conjunction with the new Express Entry system in order to better align processing capacity within the CIC network to respond to CEC growth and service standard commitments.Footnote 52

5.2 Program Information, Coordination, Tools and Training

Finding: Information, coordination, training and tools adequately support program management and delivery.

Various informational resources and coordination mechanisms were identified in the interviews with CIC representatives, which were believed to adequately support the management of the program. While the information available to CIC was generally described as sufficient, a tendency to rely on anecdotal information, occasional delays in the receipt of statistical information, and a desire for a more formalized flow of information were also noted in the interviews with CIC representatives. It was also suggested that the formalization of some working-level mechanisms could help enhance program coordination. More information on the information and coordination mechanisms available to manage the program is provided in the Extended Evaluation Report.

Tools and training have been developed or acquired over time, and were believed to adequately support application processing. Key tools mentioned in the interviews with CIC representatives included the operational manuals 25 and 25A, as well as a specialized tool, called the Assisted Decision Maker Macro (ADMM)Footnote 53, and a database providing information on Canadian employers.Footnote 54

In terms of training, it was noted that officers processing CEC applications were provided with on-the-job training and mentoring, and that some had taken a portion of the visa officer training, offered by CIC’s International Region. However, there was no consistent, standardized training for officers in the Centralized Processing Region (CPR) at the time of the evaluation. While a desire for more formal training was noted in the interviews, the main challenge identified was the high rate of staff turnoverFootnote 55, which was linked to challenges in retaining trained staff and building expertise within the CEC, and the need for additional training resources, which was considered to be cost-ineffective.

5.3 Program Integrity

Finding: There are no significant program integrity issues particular to the CEC. Integrity is supported by the program design, and CIC has been proactive in developing strategies to strengthen program integrity.

Many interviewees noted issues that could affect CEC program integrity, including concerns related to the actions of applicants, employers, and immigration representatives (described in more detail in the Extended Evaluation Report). However, it was noted that the magnitude of fraud within the CEC had not been formally established, and perceptions of the extent of program misuse or fraud among CIC interviewees varied. In addition, a review of selected departmental quality assurance reportsFootnote 56 found that, where CEC program integrity issues were observed, they related to single incidents or files, rather than to trends, and were similar to program integrity risks facing the CEC’s contributor programs, the TFW and International Student programs.Footnote 57

The key CEC program integrity issue raised in the interviews was the exaggeration of the quality of previous work experience (e.g., applicants or employers misrepresenting low-skilled experience as being in a high-skilled occupation). Program documentation also identified this issue as a concern supporting the introduction of caps and exclusions of various NOC B applications.Footnote 58 However, the percentage of NOC B admissions has increased only slightly over time (from 48.4% of CEC admissions in 2009 to 55.3% in 2014), suggesting that these program integrity concerns have not been realized.

The design of the CEC program helps reduce the risk of some kinds of fraud. It was noted in the interviews that Canadian work and study experience is more easily verifiable, and concentrating processing experience in a small number of officers helps increase awareness of indicators of potential fraud. It was also mentioned that some measures introduced through the revised TFW and ISP regulations could help further reduce CEC program integrity concerns. Various program integrity controls, mechanisms and strategies, in line with CIC’s Program Integrity Framework, were observed in the evaluation, and are described in more detail the Extended Evaluation Report.

5.4 Efficiency of Program Delivery

Finding: The CEC design is streamlined, program delivery is centralized and efficient, and application processing is timely.

5.4.1 Program Design and Application Processing

The CEC program design is based on a simple pass/fail assessment, with a small number of eligibility criteria, linked to factors associated with successful integration. Generally, interviewees believed the CEC application process to be streamlined. Several features were noted in the interviews with CIC representatives, including the ability of clients to apply to the program from within Canada, the use of pass/fail criteria (rather than a points grid), the simpler eligibility requirements, and the reduced effort required in assessing Canadian qualifications and experience. Centralization of application processing was also mentioned in the interviews as a key element of the CEC’s streamlined process.Footnote 59

In addition, CIC interviewees generally believed the CEC to be delivered efficiently. Although various elements contributing to program efficiency were noted in the interviews, one key innovation mentioned was the development of the Assisted Decision Maker Macro (ADMM). The ADMM is an electronic case assessment tool which guides users through the processing of an application. According to program documentationFootnote 60, the use of the ADMM has resulted in savings in time (with time spent by case analysts reduced by close to 50%), fewer mistakes and omissions, and improved case notes.Footnote 61

Efficiency of CEC program delivery was also explored in terms of program costs relative to applications processed and processing times (see Table 5.2). Consistent with the streamlined design and process of the CEC, cost per CEC application processed, though increasing over the reporting period, was generally lower compared to the FSW program and PNPFootnote 62. The CEC also achieved considerably better processing times than the FSW program, and on par or better processing times than the PNP, even though not meeting its service standard (80% of cases processed within 10 months) overall during the 2009-10 to 2013-14 period. Furthermore, many CEC PAs surveyed (71.0%) indicated that they were satisfied with the amount of time it took to process their application.Footnote 63

Table 5.2: Resource Utilization by Fiscal Year (FY) for the CEC, FSW and PN Programs
Resource Utilization FY 2009/10 FY 2010/11 FY 2011/12 FY 2012/13 FY 2013/14 Overall
CEC Cost per application $848.91 N/A $620.11 $1,146.83 $1,310.46 $1,042.71
CEC Processing time (months)Footnote *†  8 13 15 13 13 N/A
FSW Cost per application $1,712.08 $1,680.67 $2,123.51 $2,541.57 $3,627.77 $2,111.62
FSW Processing time (months)Footnote *†  40 42 41 37 47 N/A
PNP Cost per application $1,161.62 $845.00 $1,029.88 $1,632.60 $1,572.21 $1,286.17
PNP Processing time (months)Footnote *†  12 13 15 17 17 N/A

Source: CMM and CIC operational statistics (March 9, 2015)Footnote **†

As shown in Table 5.2, processing times for the CEC started out low, then increased, but eventually decreased and stabilized in the last two years of observation. At the same time, CEC approval rates ranged from 80% to 85% between 2009/10 and 2013/14; they were higher than FSW approval rates in the first three years of observation, but comparable in the last two years, and not surprisingly, consistently lower than PNP approval rates overall.Footnote 64 Overall, this pattern of results appears to reflect the natural progression of a new program as it stabilizes its processing capacity in the context of increasing intake, expertise and resourcing for application processing.

Therefore, at the time of data collection for the evaluation, the CEC application process was streamlined and timely, and program delivery was relatively efficient. In January 2015, CIC introduced the new Express Entry system, adding a pre-screening step to the CEC application process (see section 5.5 for more information). As with all applications under Express Entry, the new processing target for CEC applications submitted under this regime is 80% of applications within six months or less, while the processing target for CEC applications submitted prior to the introduction of Express Entry remains at 80% of applications within 10 months.

5.4.2 Modernization

As part of CIC’s modernization initiative, the department has been shifting from paper-based, place-based processing of applications to an increasingly digital and integrated processing network.Footnote 65 CEC application processing has been centralized since the inception of the program, and CPC-Ottawa, where CEC application processing is currently concentrated, was created in 2010, and implemented, in particular, to support CIC’s modernization agenda. It played a pivotal role in supporting the roll-out of GCMS and the restructuring of the North American program delivery network.Footnote 66 While not in effect at the time of data collection for the evaluation, the introduction of e-applications was discussed in the interviews as a potential modernization-related change which would help to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of program delivery.

5.5 Introduction of Express Entry

Finding: The recent introduction of the Express Entry system has changed Canada’s overall approach to economic immigration, including application through the CEC; however, it is too early to assess the impact that this new approach will have on the relevance and performance of the CEC.

The Express Entry system was launched on January 1, 2015 as a new process to manage applications for permanent residence in the FSW program, Federal Skilled Trades (FST) program and the CEC, as well as a for a portion of the PNP. Under this system, foreign nationals interested in coming to Canada as economic immigrants create a profile online, and those who meet the minimum criteria for one or more of the designated programs are entered into a pool, assessed and ranked using the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS)Footnote 67. Individuals with the highest scores are drawn from the pool and issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA), according to a schedule reflecting CIC’s levels targets and processing capacity.Footnote 68 While not in scope for the present evaluationFootnote 69, the Express Entry system may have significant implications for the CEC in the future, and is thus examined here in a very preliminary way to offer a few early observations in moving forward.Footnote 70

Initial implementation of Express Entry has seen a relatively large proportion of invitations issued to candidates under the CEC program streamFootnote 71, with one round dedicated exclusively to the CEC.Footnote 72 While some concern was raised in the interviews regarding the primacy given job offers under Express Entry, as well as how well CEC applicants would fare under the new system relative to FSW applicants, early indications have been positive. However, there is some evidence to suggest that it may become challenging for some CEC candidates to be invited to apply under Express Entry in the future, as more and more candidates do not have qualified job offers and the focus shifts increasingly to the assessment of human capital. The following observations are noteworthy:

  • The CIC mid-year report on Express EntryFootnote 73 indicated that almost all candidates invited to apply in the first four rounds had job offers supported by LMIAs, and that the vast majority were already working in Canada and were familiar with Canada’s immigration system.Footnote 74 This is consistent with evaluation findings which suggested that many CEC PAs have been transitioning to permanent residence in the same job that they had as temporary residents.Footnote 75
  • Under Express Entry, jobs first acquired as a temporary resident without a LMIA must be assessed against labour market needs in order to qualify for bonus points, making it more challenging for CEC candidates, who often do not have LMIA-supported work permits as temporary residentsFootnote 76, to receive bonus points for arranged employment in this new regime.
  • The mid-year report on Express Entry also highlighted that invitation rounds since March had seen invitations issued on a more regular basis to candidates without job offers or provincial nominations.Footnote 77 Correspondingly, a review of the first 13 rounds of ITAs showed that, on average, CRS cut-offs were higher (above 600 points) in the first four invitation rounds (average of 812 points), and lower (below 600 points) in subsequent rounds (average of 497 points).Footnote 78
  • In terms of human capital, eligibility for the CEC (post 2013 changes) is less demanding than the FSW program relying on two main factors: 12 months of eligible work experience in Canada and official language proficiency. In contrast, eligibility under the FSW program includes a broader assessment of human capital, looking at multiple factors (also applicable under the CRS)Footnote 79, including work experience in and outside Canada, language, education, and age.

Another key consideration for the relevance and performance of CEC in the future is the way in which invitations to apply are issued under Express Entry. Applicants no longer select the program under which they apply, they are invited to apply under the program for which they appear to be eligible. When there is a general round of invitations and candidates appear to be eligible under multiple programs, the Express Entry system automatically invites them to apply under one program. At the time of the evaluation, the following order was being applied: PNP, FSW, CEC and FST.Footnote 80 Footnote 81 As a result, candidates who may have opted to apply under the CEC in the past, possibly with higher human capital, may be processed as FSW candidates under Express Entry, thus affecting access to the CEC.

In sum, Express Entry has changed how the CEC program is implemented. Under Express Entry, candidates are now assessed and ranked based on their human capital through the CRS, and invited to apply for permanent residence under one of the economic immigration streams based on eligibility and a program hierarchy. As access to the CEC is now, to a large extent, superseded by these new design elements, the human capital profile and economic outcomes of future CEC immigrants processed under Express Entry may be different from those observed in the present evaluation.

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