Evaluation of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot

Research and Evaluation Branch
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Project reference number: E2-2019

October 2020

Executive summary

Purpose of the Evaluation

This report presents Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) findings of the evaluation of Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP). The evaluation was conducted to assess the early implementation and outcomes of the Pilot, report on the results story to date, as well as provide evidence to support its future directions.

The evaluation covered the period from AIP’s implementation in March 2017 to the end of fiscal year (FY) 2019–2020.

Overview of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot

Launched as part of the Atlantic Growth Strategy, the AIP supports Atlantic Provinces in meeting specific labour market demands by giving businesses the ability to fill job vacancies quickly using permanent immigration programs.

To ensure the long-term retention and integration of newcomers, the Pilot was developed around three unique features, which include: an employer-driven model, settlement requirements for applicants, and multi-party governance with a variety of stakeholders. Designed with a collaborative approach, the Pilot is delivered by IRCC, Atlantic Provinces, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), federally-funded and provincially-funded service provider organizations (SPOs), and employers.

As of December 2019, 5,590 AIP newcomers arrived to the Atlantic Provinces, with 45% of AIP newcomers destined to New Brunswick, 34% to Nova Scotia, 10% to Prince Edward Island, and 10% to Newfoundland and Labrador. Over the Pilot’s three year period, almost three-quarters (73%) arrived in Canada in 2019. Of the AIP principal applicants that have arrived in Canada, almost half (46%) were employed in the National Occupation Classification (NOC) B, and 36% were NOC C.

IRCC began to take the necessary steps to make the AIP a permanent program in December 2019.

Evaluation findings

Overall, the expected outcomes for the Pilot are being met. The AIP is helping employers in Atlantic Canada fill labour market needs, particularly in technical occupations and skilled trades (NOC B) and intermediate level occupations (NOC C).

A large majority of surveyed AIP principal applicants reported working, and AIP employment earnings are comparable with the regional average of Atlantic Canada. While minor differences were noted by AIP stream, gender and province, the most noticeable difference in earnings were by NOC skill level, with NOC 0 occupations self-reporting the lowest average employment earnings among AIP principal applicants.

A large proportion of AIP principal applicants reported working for their designated employer at the time of the survey, and a portion of those who changed employers were still working in the same province. Furthermore, a majority of AIP newcomers continue to live in Atlantic Canada after their first year, and early evidence indicates that AIP has a higher retention rate than other economic programs in Atlantic Canada.

The evaluation found settlement plans to be helpful in meeting the settlement and integration needs of a large majority of surveyed AIP principal applicants. However, many surveyed AIP principal applicants were unaware they could access settlement services free of charge. In addition, a majority of employers reported that their organization provided settlement supports to their AIP employees.

The Dedicated Service Channel (DSC) was perceived as a valuable resource for employers who accessed its services, and was identified as a way to make IRCC accessible to employers. However, more than half of surveyed AIP employers were not aware of the DSC and its services.

While the multi-party model has created new partnerships for delivering the AIP, there have been challenges in meeting of reporting requirements, and timely communication of operational changes. In addition, the diffused accountability between IRCC and Atlantic Provinces has contributed to a lack of clarity regarding roles and responsibilities for AIP integrity.

Conclusions and recommendations

In light of the transition to a permanent program, the evaluation identified several areas of opportunity to strengthen the AIP.

Pilot/Program performance data

While the AIP’s multi-party model created opportunities for robust Pilot performance collection, obtaining key Pilot results information has been challenging. Further, limited data information from key stakeholders has made it difficult to report and assess ongoing performance and outcomes. Clear data collection responsibilities, an achievable data collection strategy, and a common set of key success measures are needed to support effective performance measurement and results reporting for the AIP as it transitions to a permanent program.

Recommendation #1: IRCC should review and reconfirm its performance measurement and data collection strategy for the AIP, including:

Increasing awareness of settlement services

While settlement plans were found to be useful for AIP principal applicants and their families, a proportion of surveyed AIP principal applicants were not aware that they could access settlement services. The impact of lack of awareness indicates that some AIP newcomers may not be benefiting from the full suite of supports available to help them integrate successfully in their communities.

Given the overall value of settlement plans—and as a mandatory feature of the AIP—there are opportunities for the Department to ensure a greater awareness among AIP newcomers of the settlement services and supports available to assist with their arrival and integration.

Recommendation #2: IRCC should develop and implement a strategy to increase awareness of settlement services for AIP clients and their spouses and dependants.

Supporting AIP designated employers

AIP is attracting new employers to fill their labour market needs through immigration – over half of surveyed employers reported that using AIP was the first time they had used an immigration program. The AIP is bringing new employer partners to the immigration landscape.

While the DSC was identified as a useful support for AIP employers, more than half surveyed AIP employers were unaware of its existence. Acknowledging that the DSC is not only designed to provide assistance to the AIP but to support other employer-driven programs within IRCC, more could be done to leverage support for employers, particularly through the DSC. Moving forward, there is an opportunity to support more employers requiring help to navigate the pathways to immigration. In addition, IRCC should review profile and needs of employers who utilize the DSC, as well as identifying barriers to accessing the service.

Recommendation #3: IRCC should reconfirm its DSC objectives and employer profiles, and implement a strategy to increase DSC awareness among AIP designated employers.

Clarifying AIP accountabilities

The AIP has experienced some overlap of roles and responsibilities among partners due to a lack of clarity regarding accountabilities. As there are a variety of stakeholders and multiple points of contact, pilot accountability is diffused throughout IRCC and stakeholders, without a clearly identified lead. As such, there is a need for clear, delineated guidance for all stakeholders to ensure that accountabilities for all aspects of the Pilot are communicated, understood and operationalized.

Recommendation #4: IRCC should review accountabilities among AIP stakeholders and clarify and confirm the respective roles and responsibilities.

Communicating AIP updates and changes

With a variety of stakeholders, all with differing levels of experience with immigration, there is a need for a clear and timely communication changes to the AIP. Information, including announcements, program changes, integrity concerns, and pilot updates should be adequately communicated and shared with stakeholders and pilot participants – this will be especially important as the Pilot moves towards becoming a permanent program.

Recommendation #5: IRCC should ensure that announcements, program changes and updates are broadly communicated to AIP newcomers, partners and stakeholders (including SPOs and employers) in a timely manner

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