Immigration as a Business Solution to Scarce Talent


A critical job (power line technicians) at British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (BC Hydro) was redefined to increase the pool of available candidates. Further, talent was sourced from abroad to fill the positions remaining open.

The problem addressed by the campaign: 
  • Hiring for power line technicians proved difficult because of the unique nature of the work and educational requirements. The position required secondary education math and physics skills, physical strength, a desire to work outdoors and the acceptance of a certain level of occupational hazard.
  • Although this role has always been in demand, increasing infrastructure needs and a trend for the most qualified candidates pursuing college made this demand far more acute. BC Hydro needed to hire 500 power line technicians.
  • The role was redefined to help broaden the pool of available candidates.
    •  An “entry level” position was created that required slightly lower levels of secondary math and physics education. 
    • Physical lifting requirements were lowered to encourage a wider range of applicants. 
    • Duties of the job that could be taken on by other roles were eliminated from the job description.
  • Private contractors were given longer contracts of approximately five years to improve their ability to keep power line technicians employed in the long term and to encourage investments in training. 
  • The need to find the “cheapest contract” was de-emphasized to ensure that private contractors could pay their power line technicians more.
  • Workers from Eastern Canada and Winnipeg were attracted to British Columbia. Filipino immigrants were also hired and integrated into the power line technician role to fill remaining job vacancies.
  • The power line technician roles were filled by new hires from remote Canadian locations. Filipino immigrants filled the remaining positions that the Canadian labour market could not. 
  • There has been little turnover, and few difficulties with the changes were observed. Although some xenophobia was seen in more isolated locations, overall it was not prevalent issue.
Why has it worked?: 

The nature of the job was rethought and broadened to attract a larger pool of talent.

Conclusions and Recommendations: 

The selective redefining of roles and hiring of immigrants can help fill critical workforce gaps.

Foundational Issues: 
Public and private constraints on mobility
Level of Collaboration: 
Level 3: Collaboration on an industry or regional level
North America
Economic and political context: 

BC Hydro financials:

  • Sales: US$ 40.2 billion
  • Profits: US$ 5.9 billion
  • Assets: US$ 15.6 billion
  • Employees: 5,805
About the Author(s): 

British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, an electric utility, engages in generating, manufacturing, distributing, supplying, purchasing, and selling electricity in British Columbia, Canada.