Tuesday, 13 February 2018 15:07

Lost in the Wasteland of Survival Jobs

By: Nanyi Albuero in Toronto, ON

The rhythmic sound of embroidering machines surround Mariam Said Mobinullah as she expertly navigates her way around a sea of powerful equipment. She reaches for the box of buttons, clasps and hooks; attaching them to various garments in one fell swoop. With movements that have become all but muscle memory, she wastes no time stitching initials onto the assortment of robe bags. There are targets to be met.

However, in the midst of another eight-hour shift which pays minimum wage with no benefits, Mariam reflects on her disappointment. She admits this was not how she envisioned life in her adopted country. As a hand sewer in a tailoring factory in Toronto, her days now involve working with varieties of gowns, coats, shirts, pants and scarves. A far cry from her days as a teacher back in Kabul.

Looking to escape war-torn Afghanistan, Mobinullah moved to Canada with her family over five years ago. Her hope lies “in the good dreams I have for my children’s future” as the silver lining to her struggles.

She is not alone in finding difficulty as a new Canadian. The road to an immigrant realizing the “Canadian Dream” is fraught with roadblocks about one’s qualifications and whether employers will recognize them. Highly skilled professionals with university degrees in their native countries are often relegated to survival jobs and paid a minimum wage with no job stability in sight. Hence the stories about doctors driving cabs or engineers as security guards or delivering pizzas. And with that low income demographic comes the term “working poor”.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Is the initial difficulty experienced by new Canadians in finding a job in their line of work a rite of passage?[/quote]

Deena Ladd, Coordinator at the Workers’ Action Centre in Toronto, reflects on this conundrum: “It’s no surprise.  So many people’s qualifications are not accepted coming into this country. Research studies have shown that getting these qualifications recognised and getting the equivalency of these qualifications is just insurmountable for so many people."

Ladd further observed that it can even be tough for newcomers who choose to go back to school because “how do you go back to school if you have to pay your bills?”

No Canadian Experience

This was the dilemma Mayurika Trivedi found herself in when she arrived in Canada from India in 1997. She proudly says “I’m not a newcomer. I came to Canada with my two sons.” However, her accounting and business administration degree did not land her a professional job but instead she started as a machine operator in a factory.

She was also subjected to that dreaded mantra: No Canadian experience.  Frustrated by the lack of information for new arrivals and not enough training resources, she had no choice but to work the night shift in an automotive factory. Later on she was transferred to the day shift.

Mayurika was forced to leave her job in 2010 when her husband fell ill. In spite of the hardships she is not giving up and plans on going back to school “to upgrade my education and help me in my career”. She hopes to one day be financially independent so she is able to fulfill her dreams.

Heartbreaking, as is the plight of 1.5 million women in Canada living on a low income. This is a fact of life which Mariam Said Mobinullah and Mayurika Trevidi face in a G7 nation.

While some immigrants have given up on the “Canadian Dream” and returned to their home countries, that option simply does not exist for many. Moving away from places that do not offer the same liberties or securities, a trip back could prove costly in the long run.

It can still be an uphill climb for many professional women who arrive in Canada fleeing war or persecution. There can be subtle yet systemic racism based on the colour of one’s skin, a foreign-sounding name or accent.

It is distressing that 28 per cent of visible minority women live in poverty; almost 70 per cent of part-time workers are women and 60 per cent of minimum-wage earners are female, according to the Canadian Women's Foundation. 

Dr. Izumi Sakamoto, of the University of Toronto, points to employers who knowingly or unknowingly are discriminating against immigrants by prioritizing "Canadian experience" over credentials that may have been obtained abroad. "When they show up to job interviews, they're told they don't have Canadian experience and can't be hired. Somehow your experience is inferior to that of a Canadian," she explained during an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

In 2013, the Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled the question of "Canadian experience", a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code. However, as new Canadians continue to face this obstacle, it's clear that a more practical solution must be implemented. Sakamoto calls for more awareness as Canada looks to open its doors to more skilled immigrants. That it has become a code violation is good news, but remains small comfort for the thousands in Ontario mired in survival and precarious jobs. 

This piece is part of the "Ethnic Women as Active Participants in Ontario" series. Writers interested in participating are encouraged to join the NCM Collective for an opportunity.

Published in Economy

Commentary by Pradip Rodrigues in Mississauga

Last week, Canada’s innovation minister Navdeep Bains all but conceded that the Liberals needed to craft a positive message about boosting the number of immigrants into Canada. In other words those in favour of a massive increase need to put a spin on it. There is resistance to that idea from sections within the Liberal party as well as from Canadians worried about the effect more immigrants will have on their job prospects, let alone their children’s job prospects.

Following public consultations with Canadians coast to coast, Immigration minister John McCallum not so long ago insisted that wherever he went, Canadians were telling him they wanted more immigrants. Some might have literally been begging, especially in immigrant-rich places like Brampton.

It is the position of many Liberals, the business community and the elite at large who are for a massive intake of new immigrants, refugees, foreign students who they insist are needed to fill labour shortages. Any day now a new three-year immigration plan is expected to be unveiled, and it looks increasingly likely that the annual number of immigrants for 2017 will be a lot higher than in previous years. By the end of 2016, Canada will have welcomed well over 300,000 immigrants.

A minority favour higher immigration levels

In a Nanos Research poll conducted in August 39 per cent of Canadians felt Ottawa should accept fewer immigrants in 2017 than in 2016, 37 per cent were satisfied with the current levels and just 16 per cent thought we should accept more immigrants.

But then again, a Canadian, both old and new is for or against higher or lower immigration levels depending on their current financial situation, their social status and place on the food chain.
If the Canadian is a new immigrant trapped in a precarious work cycle or at the mercy of temp agencies, talk about Canada’s desperate shortage of workers and the need to import more immigrants would seem like a cruel and ongoing joke, after thousands of immigrants made that fateful decision to immigrate based on such ‘reports’ only to find themselves unemployed or underemployed.

Immigration is favoured by the elite

If you are a corporate CEO or business owner who stands to gain richly by bringing in skilled workers rather than invest and train young Canadians, increasing immigrant levels is in your interest.
The Liberal elites who often happen to be civil servants with job security and generous pension plans , university professors, media professionals and the affluent who aren’t threatened by waves of immigrants love the idea of a human flood. It makes for a feel good story about great success of Canada’s stunning diversity, generosity and multiculturalism. It contributes to a sense of national identity.

Neither are their jobs threatened by immigrants who won’t ‘qualify’ as they lack ‘Canadian experience’ and the demographic composition of their neighborhoods won’t be affected by immigrants seeking jobs and homes.
Currently there are many media commentators who are encouraging the government to heed experts and business leaders who support higher immigration levels. In other words, they infer that the tremendous pushback against the idea comes from less educated and racist Canadians. Some media commentators might almost want to call them ‘deplorables’ for their anti-immigrant mentality. After all how can Joe Sixpack know what’s good for the country?

In earlier times it was easier to defer to elites and experts on complex issues like the economy, there were few questions raised by the 50 per cent or so of the population who either had an average IQ, lower education and fewer skills. The reason was many of them had decent to well-paying jobs in manufacturing and the trades that didn’t require a college degree. But in 2016 this is not the case.

Technology is eliminating job categories

More jobs than ever before require complex skills and higher education. Even a car mechanic needs to be computer savvy and it may not hurt to have programming skills in the future.
But even if free training is available, can a person without the aptitude and mental agility master complex change? This new technological age is especially cruel to those in the arts as well as those not cut out for higher education.

There are millions of Canadians and Americans, mostly men who are currently unemployed, stagnating at dead-end jobs or have simply stopped looking for work. These are victims of technology changes and outsourcing. While the new report released recently by the Conference Board of Canada discusses the affect of an aging population on the economy and the need for higher immigration levels may have some merit, it simply baffles those at the lower end of the food chain. And no one pushing for more immigration seems to have taken into account the fact that technology is set to get rid of entire job categories . Between outsourcing and redundancy hundreds of thousands of jobs could disappear just as immigrants appear over the horizon.

Prepare for short-term employment

Our Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently told Canadians to prepare for an era of short-term employment he also noted that some people will see their jobs disappear in the years to come — truck drivers and receptionists, for instance.

So on one hand Canadians who want to work will find themselves working even less if at all and on the other hand we are reminded or a looming labor crisis.

As I write this column, there are thousands of Canadians trapped doing jobs they hate simply because there are few options out there. There are any number of university-educated millennials struggling to find jobs or hold down jobs that barely utilize their skills. Barristers are baristas at coffee shops in Toronto. Walk into temp agencies and you will find an endless stream of educated and mostly new immigrants hoping to luck out with a dead end job.
Big corporations may talk about the need for more highly-skilled immigrants, but they won’t promise not to ship jobs off to India and China when its convenient or more economical.

Most immigrants compete in crowded job categories

And one problem with skilled workers is that while they come into Canada as the principle applicant, they bring along spouses who may in all probability have skills that aren’t in high demand, in which case he or she will end up competing for scarce jobs with other Canadians. So technically for every one immigrant with skills, comes another who will join the crowded general job category. This could end up depressing wages at the lower end of the job market, naturally or add to the unemployment numbers. Why would a small businessman want to give his employees a livable wage that is well above minimum wage when there are any number of new immigrants and foreign students willing to work for less? Late last month a report from new survey from Aon Hewitt, a Human Resource firm, said Canadians could forget about getting a raise in 2017. They ofcourse refer to those in the private sector. Civil servants and others can expect good raises, not surprisingly, these are the ones most in favor of bringing in more immigrants.

Even brown Canadians are wary of increasing the number of immigrants, unless ofcourse they have family who’ve applied for immigration or student visas. There was a time small businessmen loved new immigrants who were willing to work for minimum wage and absolutely no medical benefits, now many of them are keen on a steady supply of foreign students. Why? Who else will work for $6 an hour?

Republished with permission

Published in Policy
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 18:46

Research Watch #7: Enclaves and Earnings

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

Several observers have noted that immigration is, generally, a non-partisan issue in Canada. That probably explains why it's not a topic of debate during this current federal election campaign. But, it's safe to say that the next government will inevitably be confronted with competing demands on the immigration file.

In this edition of Research Watch, we offer the next Minister of Immigration a look at two studies that highlight why federal policymakers need to understand where immigrants settle, how they integrate and factors that determine their economic success in Canada. 

The truth about ethnic enclaves

A recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy challenges the notion that communities with high populations of visible-minority immigrants are rife with socio-economic marginalization and cultural isolation.

In the report “Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” researcher Daniel Hiebert sets out to answer whether these enclaves are the so-called “ghettos” they are often perceived to be.

While the answer proves complex and varied, the key finding of Hiebert’s research is that, in Canada, this tends not to be the case.

[quote align="center" color="#999999]"[I]t seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.[/quote]

This is particularly true of neighbourhoods where there is a dominant ethnocultural group (twice the size of any other group) living alongside several smaller groups.

“[In these communities] the stereotype of the poor immigrant neighbourhood doesn’t work,” Hiebert says. “Where there is one large group, there’s probably some sort of internal capacity for helping people because of the scale of that group.”

He suggests that this is the case because social capital is strong in these communities. Immigrants are more likely to find work more easily or have success in small business ventures because of shared commonalities with other residents.

In addition, the many other cultural groups in the enclave prove to be an asset, Hiebert explains, offering what he calls “bridging” social capital – the type of learning that comes from being exposed to other cultures that helps integrate into mainstream society.

Communities with a high percentage of visible minorities that tended to have more socio-economic challenges were those where no dominant group was present – rather, just several small cultural groups residing together.

For Hiebert, the findings highlight three important ideas.

First, he says, “Cultural diversity is everywhere.” He cites an example: in the past, an organization in “Chinatown” may have found it effective to exclusively serve Chinese Canadians, but with what is now known about the diverse make-up of communities, that type of exclusivity may mean some residents are left behind.

Second, it is time to re-evaluate services for immigrants overall. Hiebert points out that many present-day services were developed in the 1970s when immigrants were settling in inner-city locations rather than suburban ones, and while that is changing, agencies may not be keeping pace.

Finally, Hiebert concludes his study by stressing that in order to truly understand and serve these ethnocultural communities effectively, municipal governments must be at the decision-making table and engaged in the development and reform of immigration policy.

“If cities are the places where most immigrants are settling and integrating,” says Hiebert, “it seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.”

Contributors to economic success

With Canada continuing to compete in the global market to attract economic immigrants, a better understanding of predicting future earnings and success here is vital.

A recently released study from Statistics Canada based on historical data observing two cohorts of immigrants from the late 1990s and the early 2000s may help in this area. 

The study shows that, in the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.

“Basically, it appears that economic principal applicants with Canadian work experience at the time of landing are treated more like Canadians in the labour market in terms of returns to education and experience,” explains researcher Aneta Bonikowska, adding the same goes for having strong official-language skills.

But in the long-term (over a period of five to 10 years), this changes. Age and education play a factor.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.[/quote]

“Even though we don’t see a big return right off the bat, the earning trajectories of higher, better-educated immigrants are steeper than lower-educated immigrants – over time you see a gap in earnings developing on average,” says Bonikowska.

There is also a correlation between all four characteristics that affects the long-term predictions of an immigrant’s earnings.

As Bonikowska explains, the economic returns on age (the younger an immigrant, the higher the earnings, typically) and education at landing depend on that immigrant’s official-language skills and previously accumulated Canadian work experience.

While the Stats Canada report is meant to be an exercise in analyzing historical data – not a forecast of the future – Bonikowska points out that, from a policy standpoint, if more detailed information was collected from arriving economic immigrants, better predictions could be made about their potential success.

She says factors like the nature of an immigrant’s study, what institution he or she studied at and what level of education was achieved prior to arriving in Canada would give a better sense of who did well from the cohorts studied.

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Published in Policy

by Jacky Habib (@JackyHabib) in Toronto

Like many immigrants, Sadia Sohail was looking forward to starting a new life in Canada when she moved here with her young family in 2000.

“Pakistan was a troubled country. I didn’t want to raise my children in that political environment,” Sohail says. “Safety was a huge thing for us, and we felt it was important to raise our children in an atmosphere where we could be ourselves, really.”

The family settled in Mississauga, and Sohail planned to continue working as a pediatrician. “I came with an open mind. I’m such a go-getter. I thought I’d get back into medicine as soon as possible,” she says. 

Instead, Sohail received a rude awakening within months of arriving. She was told her medical qualifications were the equivalent of a Bachelor of Science degree here. Sohail knew the road to practising as a doctor in Canada would be a long one, but she didn’t expect it to have as many bumps as it did.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]She spent her evenings and weekends preparing to write medical board exams. Three years and $12,000 later, Sohail was elated to have passed the exams.[/quote]

Since she needed to provide a secondary income for her household, Sohail enrolled in an ultrasound program at a technical institute and began work as an ultrasound technician. She spent her evenings and weekends preparing to write medical board exams. Three years and $12,000 later, Sohail was elated to have passed the exams.

Now, one final step was needed to complete her equivalency process: residency.

It has proven to be the most challenging aspect. Sohail has been seeking residency since 2013 through the Canadian Resident Matching Service, which opens residency to international doctors twice a year.

“I’ve applied four times and haven’t gotten a single response for an interview. It’s disheartening. You wonder: why is this?” Sohail questions. 

Bridging the Gap

The answer that her mentors told her was that she was missing clinical research, and some experience in this would increase her chances of obtaining residency. To familiarize herself with research, Sohail enrolled in the International Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) bridging program at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University, which launched last December and began earlier this year.

Through the program, Sohail learned the fundamentals of research methodology and familiarized herself with clinical research in Canada. She also participated in a clinical placement at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), which helped her begin volunteering on a research project with Toronto Public Health.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]She acknowledges this volunteer research experience isn’t a direct entry into medicine, but she says it’s bringing her closer to her goal ... Sohail says participating in the ITMD program and volunteering in research has been empowering.[/quote]

“I feel like I’m making a huge difference with the projects I’m working on,” Sohail says. “I’m doing a project now on homeless mothers and their babies, so it’s bringing me back to what I love most.” 

She acknowledges this volunteer research experience isn’t a direct entry into medicine, but she says it’s bringing her closer to her goal. It’s also made her consider a possible career in clinical research. Sohail says participating in the ITMD program and volunteering in research has been empowering.

Participants from the first cohort of The Chang School’s ITMD bridging program graduated earlier this month. The 14 participants are from 10 countries and have varied backgrounds in the medical profession, as the program targeted internationally trained physicians, dental surgeons and clinical public health professionals.

A Starting Point

The success rate of international medical doctors who wish to pursue a career in medicine is six per cent, according to researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“This represents a lost opportunity for our province to benefit from the advanced academic and professional credentials of these highly skilled professionals,” explains Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Many immigrants come here and don’t know where to go. Some people say: drive [a taxi], or become a security guard. They’re frustrated.” - Shafi Bhuiyan, The Chang School and Faculty of Community Services[/quote]

The program was founded to help internationally trained professionals find non-licensed health-care jobs in Ontario. Shafi Bhuiyan, an internationally trained doctor who is a distinguished visiting professor with The Chang School and Faculty of Community Services, initiated the program. According to his research, Toronto has 6,000 internationally trained doctors who are working survival jobs.

“I’m also a newcomer to this country. I don’t have anybody,” says Bhuiyan, who knows the difficulties of navigating professional systems as a newcomer. “Many immigrants come here and don’t know where to go. Some people say: drive [a taxi], or become a security guard. They’re frustrated.” 

Bhuiyan says licensing for international doctors is an expensive and lengthy process, with no guarantee of obtaining a residency. Because the medical system is not absorbing these professionals, the ITMD bridging program’s goal is to lead these professionals to non-licensed careers, which are in demand, such as project managers, research managers and analysts in the health-care industry.

“If we can involve [internationally trained doctors] in a non-licensed area of the medical field, they will be happy,” Bhuiyan says. “A bridging program is not the solution. It’s a starting point.”

At The Chang School, a recruitment committee scored applications out of 100 based on the applicant’s letter of intent, health and research experience, academic degrees and qualifications and English communication scores.

“Our plan was to start with 10 people and nearly 180 people applied for the program. We found 36 very strong people who scored well and were interviewed, and from that we offered 14 students to join the program and all of them accepted,” Bhuiyan says.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I still don’t know if I’ll be able to get residency in Canada, but I will keep trying. I will knock on 100 doors and I hope that finally one will open.” - Sadia Sohail[/quote]

The 11-week program, which took place daily in the evenings, included a four-week volunteer clinical placement. Topics covered in the curriculum include: health research, project management, data management in health care, professional communication and workplace culture.

By the completion of the program, three graduates received job offers and six received an extension to their volunteer clinical placements.

Bountrogianni says the next cohort of the ITMD bridging program will begin in fall 2015 and that there has been a 50 per cent increase in applications for the program’s 15 spots.

Knocking Down Doors

The 15-year journey in pursuing a medical career in Canada has taken a toll on Sohail and her family – and it isn’t over yet.

When Sohail moved to Canada with her young family, she was pregnant and had a two-year-old toddler. Now, her children are teenagers. 

“My children – all they’ve seen growing up is their mother studying,” she says. “My routine has been very hectic and because I work, my evenings are dedicated to studying. My family is extremely supportive, but it seems like there has to be an end to this.” 

Despite being open to relocating and applying for residency positions across the country, Sohail is yet to hear a response, but she maintains her optimism.

“I still don’t know if I’ll be able to get residency in Canada, but I will keep trying. I will knock on 100 doors and I hope that finally one will open.”

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Published in Education

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Toronto

Even more than career prospects, the perceived high quality of life is at the top of the list of what motivates skilled professionals in countries like India, China and the Philippines to consider applying for immigration to Canada.

This is according to recently released data from the World Education Services (WES), in a report titled “Considering Canada: A Look at the Views of Prospective Skilled Immigrants.”

Over 3,000 respondents completed a survey WES administered to individuals considering applying to Canada – primarily those living overseas. As one of several agencies that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) designated to provide educational credential assessments (ECA) to be used as part of the new immigrant application process introduced in 2012, the organization had access to this population.

Vinitha Gengatharan, director of international relations at University of Toronto and chair of the board of directors for Agincourt Community Services Association, says this type of information is crucial to know if Canada is to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive global landscape.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Aside from demographic information and examining the motivations of prospective skilled immigrants, “Considering Canada” also takes a look at what the perceived barriers this group of people expects to face upon arriving in Canada, if successful.[/quote]

“There is a competition for skilled immigrants all over the world —everybody wants them,” says Gengatharan, whose family arrived in Canada from Sri Lanka 30 years ago. “What are they looking for when they decide to immigrate, and what can Canada offer? What can we do to be more competitive in that space . . . to be an attractive destination, is why it’s important to reach out to this audience. How can we be proactive in meeting their needs?”

In the months leading up to the report’s official release, Timothy Owen, director of WES Canada, presented some of its key findings at conferences throughout the country. He says the fact that prospective immigrants place high value on Canada’s standard of living is something he made a point of highlighting to the various stakeholders he presents to – academics, government officials, community service providers and regulatory bodies.

“I think that kind of spoke to — for me anyways — Canada being seen as a good place to live and to bring up your family, and while career prospects were a very important part of the decision to come to Canada, maybe this lifestyle was one of the driving factors and motivators.”

WES graph 1

A Younger, More Educated Candidate Pool

“Considering Canada”also highlights changing demographics amongst those now considering migration to Canada. The candidate pool appears to be younger, and also more educated.

What the report shows is that within the ECA applicants WES surveyed, nearly 95 per cent fell within the 25- to 44-year-old bracket, and only three per cent in the 45- to 64-year-old one. This is in comparison to data released by CIC in 2013 about landed immigrant applicants that showed 84 per cent were 25 to 44 years old.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Owen says that one of WES’s goals following the release of the report is to look at ways to create services that help skilled immigrants learn how to transfer their skills to similar lines of work, instead of resorting to “survival jobs.” [/quote]

Furthermore, nearly all of the applicants held a degree; 40 per cent had a master’s degree or higher. This is up from previous reports from CIC, which indicated a smaller percentage (only around 18 per cent with a master’s degree) of applicants in 2012/2013 were that highly educated.

This raises the question of why the demographics have changed. Owen has one hypothesis.

“I think part of it could have been that it was taking a long time in the old immigration system for people to get processed and arriving in Canada after they made their application, and so maybe some of the people who were best qualified found other opportunities somewhere else,” he explains. “That’s a possibility, but now, with the Express Entry program, I know the goal is to speed up the processing of people.”

What Comes Next

Aside from demographic information and examining the motivations of prospective skilled immigrants, “Considering Canada” also takes a look at what the perceived barriers this group of people expects to face upon arriving in Canada, if successful.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Even more interesting: depending on a person’s native country, their outlook on Canadian career prospects varied. At 26 percent, Chinese respondents had an overwhelmingly more negative view of job opportunities in Canada, in comparison to their Indian and Filipino counterparts, of which only one per cent and two per cent indicated negative outlooks, respectively.[/quote]

And while not enough Canadian experience was listed by 59 per cent of respondents as the number-one barrier, Owen says this remains an overwhelming frustration amongst people who eventually end up fulfilling the application process and arriving in Canada.

“How do you get Canadian experience if you can’t get a job in Canada?” is a common question he says WES research consultants encountered during recent research with focus groups of respondents who are now in the country. “And people are frustrated that their experience from their home country isn’t valued as highly as they thought it would be. That’s probably the biggest surprise to people.”

Owen says that one of WES’s goals following the release of the report is to look at ways to create services that help skilled immigrants learn how to transfer their skills to similar lines of work, instead of resorting to “survival jobs.” 

This is something Gengatharan can appreciate: her dad worked for one year as a security guard upon arrival in Canada, before eventually gaining employment in a position more closely related to his land-surveyor profession.

“I know so many people [working “survival jobs”], that’s how they gain their Canadian experience; I feel like in a globalized world a lot of experiences can be transferable,” she says, adding it still remains unclear exactly what is accepted as “Canadian experience.”

Lack of information about jobs, and lack of licensure or foreign licences not being recognized in Canada were tied at second place for the most anticipated barriers, while discrimination, insufficient English/French language skills and not enough education/training ranked fairly low on the list.

WES graph 2

Even more interesting: depending on a person’s native country, their outlook on Canadian career prospects varied. At 26 percent, Chinese respondents had an overwhelmingly more negative view of job opportunities in Canada, in comparison to their Indian and Filipino counterparts, of which only one per cent and two per cent indicated negative outlooks, respectively.

Owen says WES aims to present this report to community agencies, academics and government and regulatory bodies to hopefully ensure a better-informed approach to service provision for prospective immigrants – particularly while they are still overseas.  

This is something the Christine Nielsen, chief executive officer at the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS), says her organization is greatly in support of. A national certifying body that has been using WES’s ECA as part of its prior learning assessments for the last five years, the CSMLS sees around 300 people each year looking to come to Canada to work in the medical lab profession.

Nielsen says her organization does much of its assessment work while the clients are still overseas, and she would like to see more regulatory bodies follow suit.

“If you have no chance of practising your profession, or it’s going to take years for you to practise your profession, every immigrant I’ve talked to wants to know that information before they come and how long or how slow the process is going to be, and they can make the best decision for their families.” 

There is also no dearth of research studies being conducted by academics and organizations across the country relevant to new Canadians. Research Watch will keep an eye on the studies being released and uncover key findings on a regular basis. Conducting research that you think would be of interest? E-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Published in Policy

by Carlos Tello (@segundoviaje) in Vancouver

Lack of Canadian work experience and recognition of foreign credentials are the main reasons why skilled immigrants continue to be chronically under employed, a new study by the Panel on Employment Challenges of New Canadians has found.

Led by immigrant advocate and social entrepreneur Nick Noorani, the panel met with over 150 organizations involved in the issue of employment for new Canadians and evaluated input from over 600 respondents to an online survey to explore why many skilled immigrants are stuck in survival jobs despite their qualifications.

In addition to issues related to work experience and education, inadequate pre-arrival information, employer bias and cultural shock are also preventing newcomers to find suitable jobs, the study reports.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]2012 study by TD Bank concluded that if immigrant workers were employed at the same level as non-immigrant workers, there would be approximately 370,000 more people working.[/quote]

Immigrants account for nearly half of all PhD holders and 40 per cent of master’s degree recipients in Canada, but many can’t find jobs in the professions for which they trained.

A 2012 study by TD Bank concluded that if immigrant workers were employed at the same level as non-immigrant workers, there would be approximately 370,000 more people working.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, that underutilization of skills costs the Canadian economy between four and six billion dollars a year.

In order to streamline the labour market integration process for new Canadians, the panel’s report has issued six recommendations

  • To require each regulated occupation to develop a single pan-Canadian standard
  • To require regulators to advise newcomers who are unsuccessful in the licensing process in finding an alternative career
  • To foster a shared responsibility among all stakeholders for helping immigrants find jobs
  • To establish an advisory group to monitor progress made in implementing the panel’s recommendations
  • To provide immigrants with information that help them set realistic expectations about job prospects and licensing practices
  • To educate communities on how to increase retention outside large metropolitan areas.

What Migrants Need vs. What Support is Available

One of the questions the panel asked during the online consultation was: “What practices, tools or programs have helped you, before and after you arrived in Canada, to get a job that made full use of your skills and experience?”

Individual respondents, most of them immigrants who have been living in Canada for five years or less, replied that “specific programs targeted at newcomers” was the most helpful support service. “Nothing helped” was the second most common response. (Results shown to the right.)

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]here’s a number of challenges and barriers to finding your way in the labour market in a new country.” - Dr. Sylvia Fuller, University of British Columbia[/quote]

Organizations serving newcomers, on the other hand, responded that the most helpful programs for newcomers are “pre-arrival information and support” and “Canadian education/skills gap training”.

For Dr. Sylvia Fuller, an associate professor at University of British Columbia’s department of sociology, the discrepancies shown by the data are not surprising.

“One thing to keep in mind, of course, is that there’s a number of challenges and barriers to finding your way in the labour market in a new country,” she says. “So there isn’t kind of one real ranking, I would say.”

Fuller warns that there might even be significant differences in opinion among immigrants. Variables like their particular situation or the number of years they’ve been living in Canada can influence their views on what services are the most helpful. The report didn’t include specific conclusions regarding this data.

Noorani was unavailable for comment prior to this article’s deadline.

Better Support Services Needed

Experts agree that the panel’s recommendations are good measures to speed up and support job matching for immigrants. But they also warn that the social integration of newcomers needs to be taken into account, as issues like housing or childcare often prevent immigrants from focusing exclusively on job hunting.

“We know from numerous studies that the challenges to labour market integration include the family and life circumstances of the individual,” explains Dr. Peter Hall, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University’s urban studies program. “It would have been good to see even more emphasis on this dimension in the panel’s mandate, and hence in their recommendations.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If folks are having to work full time at crappy survival jobs and study in the evening, it’s going to take a while to get through the process. And we know that the faster the people go through [it], the better the outcomes.” - Dr. Sylvia Fuller, University of British Columbia[/quote]

Immigrants also need better programs aimed to support them economically while they undergo the process of validating their professional credentials, Fuller argues. The process is often not only costly, but also time-consuming, as many newcomers are forced to undergo some level of training in order to comply with Canadian standards.

“If folks are having to work full time at crappy survival jobs and study in the evening, it’s going to take a while to get through the process,” she says. “And we know that the faster the people go through [it], the better the outcomes.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Maybe it makes you feel better that you hired somebody that’s a little bit like you, but it doesn’t mean you hired the best person.” - Abraham Asrat, Mosaic British Columbia[/quote]

For Fuller, providing immigrants with funding to navigate through the licensing process and other challenges they face while looking for jobs will also allow more immigrant women to re-attain their professional status.

“Female immigrants are less likely to be able to re-attain their professional status than male immigrants,” she explains. “Part of that is that there tends to be this kind of family survival strategy where folks are taking [turns] to do this, and often the women are more focused on settling the children, or taking on the jobs so that the husband can study; all those kinds of things.”

The Employers’ Responsibility

Abraham Asrat, a manager of employment programs at Mosaic British Columbia, argues that native-born Canadians also have to realize that they play an important role in immigrants’ integration process into the workforce.

Employer bias against foreign credentials and experience is often the reason why newcomers are unable to become employed, he says.

“Employers, they feel like [it] is a risk assessment. ‘Am I going to hire somebody that went to UBC, that I know their education, or am I going to hire somebody that’s just from outside, I don't know the university?’” he says.

“Maybe it makes you feel better that you hired somebody that’s a little bit like you, but it doesn’t mean you hired the best person.”

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Published in Economy

by Devanshu Narang (@devanshunarang) in Toronto

From the window of my downtown Toronto apartment, I can see a Canadian flag fluttering, facing the icy winds that are hitting hard on its already weary face. The world has long ago declared the arrival of spring and yet, as expected, the Canadian winter has stayed put.

For the last four months, I have seen my lonely companion fighting this lost battle. It is tired, battered, bruised. The harsh weather and gusty winds have taken their toll. The fabric is worn off and torn. In a few days, when people will notice its end, it will be removed and a new flag will be hoisted. It will flap happily in the summer, not knowing what is destined for it soon again.

With lost eyes I stare at my dying friend.  After facing the winter of my Canadian existence, I too am worn and ragged as this dream, nay, nightmare, is coming to an end. As my story in this country concludes, another new entrant, an English-speaking laborer, which Canada jokingly calls ‘skilled’ immigrant, will take my place. Heard this before? Not quite.

A Wasted Existence

The story does follow the standard script of a skilled middle-aged professional with excellent educational background from his country, coming to Canada thinking that he is the chosen one and will touch the skies of success in the land of his dreams – only to realize within weeks that he will soon live a life of wasted existence here, because he does not possess the right skin colour, nor the right name.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Engineers, doctors, architects, teachers from foreign lands are a dime a dozen and are regularly seen working as security guards, taxi drivers, garbage collectors, gas station attendants or factory workers.[/quote]


Then, as the money saved and brought along starts to dwindle, and the pressures of earning the daily bread for his family breaks his self esteem, fate is accepted and whatever survival jobs are thrown at him are grabbed, and compromises are made, usually for life.

Engineers, doctors, architects, teachers from foreign lands are a dime a dozen and are regularly seen working as security guards, taxi drivers, garbage collectors, gas station attendants or factory workers.

They will talk about their houses, cars and cell phones, all obtained through jobs that pay just over minimum wage. Easy mortgages, loans, and even credit card debts, are used to accumulate that which will take a life time to pay back. They will harp on their Canadian citizenship and its merits in their pseudo accents as phony as the newly rechristened ‘Canadian’ names.

Bhuwanbhai Patel sees a dollar and starts calling himself ‘Bill’. Kashilal Tiwari dreams of the same dollar with wide eyes and starts calling himself ‘Kash’. 

Over the second drink in a party, talks will move away from real estate and cars to the golden days once lived as highflying executives far away. And by the next drink, curses will start coming out towards Canada, its white majority and its system.

But my story does have a twist.

Back To Where You Came From

First the similarities: In 2009, aged 41, I arrived in Canada with the right pedigree – an engineering degree from IIT Bombay, one of the best institutions in all of India and corporate experience from various countries around the world, including from the USA.  But within days I realized that pedigree suits horses and asses, not humans. Past experience carries no value in Canada. Period.

And then I met Buddha, in the form of a government servant. This was a woman who was supposed to be helping immigrants settle down in Canada. In her frustration at not being able to cajole me into accepting the odd job as a cleaner or garbage collector, she told me that if I really felt that I had higher value, I could always go back to where I had come from.

That thought stuck with me.

I left my job search, used whatever money I had brought along to buy a gas bar and a convenience store in Guelph, and later a motel in Niagara Falls. My wife, with a doctorate in economics, worked with me, hand in hand. Together we built our lives and provided for our family. Later we sold the gas bar and bought two more motels, larger ones. Amongst family and friends, we were rated a success story.

Even Canada recognized our success and within three years of arriving here, Canada’s leading immigrant magazine rated me as one of the ‘Top 75 immigrants’ for 2013. Seriously? Amongst the best success stories of Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]This was all a scam. I was cheated. I applied for Canadian immigration under the skilled category and was selected based on a point system, which gave higher credence to my Indian education and work experience, both of which were rejected here.[/quote]

And while living this ‘successful’ Canadian life, selling cigarettes and groceries, renting or cleaning rooms, doing laundry, removing garbage or plowing snow in the gas station or motel, facing racial slurs on a regular basis from customers who visited our small businesses, this soul was waiting for the moment when it could follow the Buddha’s mantra, “If you want, you can always go back.”

I do not have anything against manual labor or doing the jobs that I did. Throughout my entire life, I have given as much respect to the janitors, the workers, the clerks in our factories, as to the general managers. We simply wanted to do our best, and offer our best to our patrons.

But this was all a scam. I was cheated. I applied for Canadian immigration under the skilled category and was selected based on a point system, which gave higher credence to my Indian education and work experience, both of which were rejected here.

I did not come to Canada to be a gas station attendant. Or a front office receptionist. Or a cleaner. I was an engineer and an experienced professional, and I expected opportunities where my expertise could have been used – even a supervisory role. I was never even short-listed for a job interview. Not even one.

Returning Home: Reborn as a Professional

After running my businesses for five years and relieved of some family responsibilities, the time had arrived to break free and ‘do’ what I was trained to do. But before that, just one last time, I wanted to try out Canada.

I sold my businesses and with my five years of ‘Canadian work experience’, started looking for jobs once more. Result? Again, a big zero, other than those offering positions at minimum wage.

I did at least develop a friendship with the Canadian flag, as we talked and scraped through the Canadian winter. The flag fought the forces of nature while I fought the very system that it stood for.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]By calling us outsiders and making us feel unwanted because of our skin colour, our names and our religion and by neglecting our professional background, you are becoming a mediocre ghetto and a place as cold and frigid as its weather.[/quote]


I now end my life as a non-descript entity in Canada and am reborn as a professional, while going back to the lands that trust my skills, my expertise and have called me back with open arms, entrusting me the responsibilities of managing companies and providing leadership to skilled people.

Vicious lady, my living Buddha, I am grateful and delighted today to follow your advice.  Just to help you, on your behalf, I shout loudly to anyone who in his middle age still maintains a Canadian dream – do not come here if you genuinely value yourself.

Oh Canada, I cry for thee! In wasting lives of your adopted children you lose the very skills that they brought along. While throwing cold water over our dreams, you also end the warmth of belonging towards you that once ignited our loving hearts.

By calling us outsiders and making us feel unwanted because of our skin colour, our names and our religion and by neglecting our professional background, you are becoming a mediocre ghetto and a place as cold and frigid as its weather.

Good-bye, my adopted land and I may be gone for long and may just come back in the winter of my life. Perhaps in my heart, there is still some love left. I am not taking everything away. While leaving, I give you my biggest gift, my most beautiful creation for keeps. My children - the fruit of my life’s labour.

Accept them. Treat them as your own and not as the stepchild like you treated me. Love them as much as they love you.

My friend, our flag, fluttering, dying on that building there, is shedding one last tear together with me, for thee. I pray that for once, our tears melt your frozen heart and you open your arms and accept my children as yours and build a Canada of the future, a Canada of their dreams.

Devanshu Narang is a mechanical engineer with 25 years of corporate experience. He has worked in a variety of fields and industries. He is also a filmmaker, writer, and poet.

This article first appeared in Guelph Mercury News



Published in Commentary

by Dr. Jelena Zikic at York University

Recent policy changes on removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier and some successful initiatives by organizations such as the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council have helped address the problem of underemployment among immigrant professionals. These initiatives are seen as major steps in facilitating the transitions of migrants into the Canadian labour market. However, there is still a lot more work to be done on this front. In particular, little is known about the intricate identity transitions that migrant professionals experience once they are faced with the inability to be ‘who they are’.

In many conversations and first-hand witnessing of migrant career journeys in Toronto, I was led by academic curiosity to search for answers (between 2009 and 2012) to what seemed to be complex structural issues. As a psychologist, with a passion for understanding the human condition, and experience in helping manage career transitions, I was concerned by comments such as: “I am a fish out of water … I was a physician back home. I can serve people and I can help people. Here, I am nothing."

Based on 58 in-depth interviews – 32 with International Medical Professionals (IMPs) and 26 with International Information Technology Professionals (IITPs) – my study explores the professional identity experiences of individuals who are not working in their chosen professions -- as yet. This study also compares the experiences of medical professionals to the labour market re-entry experiences of IT professionals. It explores migrant responses to the rules and procedures they encounter when they seek to practise in their respective professions. These experiences often involve coming to terms withwhat we can no longer doand withwho we can no longer be.

Regulatory barriers

The findings reveal that identity experiences are highly dependent on the extent of regulatory barriers as well as individual characteristics such as age, years of previous experience, identity adaptability, and resilience.

A strong identification with their professional role as doctors was a significant part of their accounts. Their experiences highlight the various structural factors that impede IMPs from entering their profession. These factors include a lack of clarity regarding regulatory requirements and procedures, inability to enter residency programs, and subjective evaluations by gatekeepers on their suitability to practise. These barriers led IMPs to experience identity struggles and to feel incapable of becoming doctors again. They even felt ‘inauthentic’ in their social interactions.

Despite many attempts to repair their sense of identity, through resilience and resourcefulness such as customizing their identity to other roles, putting their identity ‘on hold’ while engaging in survival work, and engaging in identity shadowing as volunteers in hospitals, IMPs’ experiences led to an identity crisis. In other words, they felt a major discontinuity between the person they had been and who they wanted or needed to become after immigrating to a new country.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In other words, they felt a major discontinuity between the person they had been and who they wanted or needed to become after immigrating to a new country.[/quote]

IT professionals fare better

In contrast to structural barriers faced by doctors, IT professionals encounter a much less regulated profession and generally exhibit weaker identification with their IT careers. IITPs were primarily concerned with managing and navigating the expectations of local employers. Lack of local experience led them to survival jobs and to putting their identity ‘on hold.’ In other cases, they downshifted to lower level positions and customized their identity to what was available in the labour market.

While IT labour market wasn’t necessarily ‘open’, it had enough flexibility and clarity to encourage rather, than discourage entry. Initially, IITPs faced significant career downshifting, often starting from level one; but eventually their transition experience led to acquiring new skills, identity enrichment, and even identity growth.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]While IT labour market wasn’t necessarily ‘open’, it had enough flexibility and clarity to encourage rather than discourage entry.[/quote]

In contrast to these somewhat optimistic transition experiences of IT professionals, the situation facing internationally-trained doctors remains extremely complex with multiple stakeholders involved and strong forces of occupational closure from the local labour market. The stories of IMPs must also be seen in the context of the local health care system, which is in need of doctors and is characterized by long wait times.

While these interviews were conducted before the policy on removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier was introduced, it will be important to see how long it takes for employers to truly implement this policy.

Dr. Jelena Zikic is Associate Professor at the School of Human Resource Management at York University. Her research and expertise center on career transitions of diverse populations, stress, and coping. Currently, her studies examine career transitions of immigrant professionals, looking at the individual and organizational context as well as strategies to be successful in the new labour market.

This post was adapted from a CERIS blog post, with permission from the author.

Published in Policy
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 15:08

How the Globe Revived My Career

by Dennis Mathew (@mathewdennis in Toronto

Everyone has a story. Each time I share the story of my early days in Canada, I get the response, “That’s a miracle."

I was born and educated in India, and like many new immigrants, I moved to Canada with big dreams. With an MBA and a rising career in advertising working with international brands in Dubai, I was confident of making it big in Canada. After all, I had moved countries and lived in different continents before; succeeding in a new place was not a new thing. The prospect of starting from scratch and making it big excited me. It’s not necessarily a guy thing ... well, actually, yes, it is. It’s a guy thing. I was in for an adventure, for sure.

It was not long before my enthusiasm and options started to run out. Despite the headwinds I was facing, I sent my applications to every advertising agency in town. I started getting lots of mail over the next few weeks brimming with lovely politeness that all ended in, No. Many agencies didn’t even bother to write back because they figured we both just kind of knew.

With no luck from advertising agencies, I decided to spread the net wider. I thought the skills and experience I gained on the agency side would be an asset for any client. Unfortunately, most recruiters could not see beyond my lack of Canadian experience.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]However, his expertise counts for nothing. Mr. Mathew has been to more than a dozen interviews, and is always told the same thing: "You must have Canadian experience," he said with a rueful laugh. excerpted from Globe and Mail: Immigrants battle chronic low income[/quote]

My dream job in Canada seemed a distant possibility when, even after four months, I couldn’t get a decent break. Desperate to get back into the work force, I decided to take up survival jobs to stop the bleeding of my bank account. When I mentioned this to some of my closest friends, they looked at me like I was proposing to remove my own liver.

Graveyard shifts

Working the graveyard shifts on factory floors, however, turned out to be a bigger nightmare than I imagined.  While it helped pay the bills, tasks like scrubbing store signs at -5 degrees C, picking hot automotive parts from burning furnaces, carrying heavy boxes across warehouse floors, was definitely not my idea of work. While it taught me important lessons in humility and the dignity of labour, I began to question the value of my education, knowledge and experience.  There seemed no light at the end of this proverbial tunnel.

One day, a friend mentioned about a journalist who was writing an article on immigrants battling chronic low income. I was keen on sharing my version of the immigration story, and, at that point, needed a place to vent. When I spoke with Marina Jiménez, who was researching the article, I was bitter, angry and frustrated. Marina did an amazing job of weaving my story into her article in the Globe and Mail the next day (Jan. 31, 2007). My forlorn picture that accompanied the hard-copy version of the story seemed to accurately portray my plight.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"It is a criminal waste of my knowledge and experience," said Mr. Mathew, who plans to leave Canada by the summer if he doesn't land a job in his field. excerpted from Globe and Mail: Immigrants battle chronic low income[/quote]

Dramatic difference

Things changed overnight. I started getting calls from recruiters and companies who were keen to explore what I could bring to the table. The big break came when one kind-hearted management consultant read the article and reached out to Marina. He mentioned that he had a few contacts in advertising agencies and could introduce me to his connections.

When I met Himal, who runs a management consultancy firm, I saw a living example of human generosity. Here was someone willing to go above and beyond for a complete stranger. He spent countless hours mentoring me. As luck would have it, Himal’s connections were the biggest and best agencies in town. I got to present my credentials to the CEO's and managing directors of the crème-de-la-crème of advertising agencies in Toronto.

As a result of one of these meetings, I got an amazing job at the Mecca of advertising agencies -- Ogilvy and Mather. Working on the IBM account, building award-winning integrated marketing campaigns like Smarter Planet and Watson-Jeopardy, with some of the best talent in town, was my dream coming true.

As Nicholas Sparks said in A Walk to Remember, I now believe, by the way, that miracles can happen.” 

Dennis Mathew is a Toronto-based marketing professional engaged in building cutting-edge, thoughtful and measurable solutions for marketers. With more than 15 years in advertising and digital marketing, he has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands to develop award-winning social, mobile and digital marketing best practices.

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Published in Commentary

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Toronto

Only eight per cent of the jobs in Canada are advertised. An astounding 76 per cent of the jobs are hidden or created. New Canadians packed into a Metro Toronto Convention Centre conference room to gain this type of insight about the Canadian job market from human resources professional, Sujay Vardhmane

Vardhmane’s presentation, Winning Ways – The Formula to Your Job Search Success, is just one of nine interactive speaker sessions part of a free, day-long Career, Education & Settlement Fair presented by Canadian Immigrant Magazine in partnership with Scotiabank and Centennial College. The annual fair, which also includes a trade show, resume clinic and speed mentoring sessions, is in its fourth year. Gautam Sharma, Publisher of Canadian Immigrant, says its goal is to provide real advice to newcomers. “The idea was to have a very sort of holistic opportunity for everyone to listen to,” he says.

Vardhmane’s main message during an hour-long presentation is that sitting behind a computer sending resumes all day long will rarely lead to securing a job. He gives newcomers a challenge: for six months, give yourselves points for every job-related action they take – 500 for an interview, 250 for an information meeting, 100 for making a phone call and 50 for applying for a job via the internet. If someone achieves 3,000 or more points weekly for six months he is confident they will land their ideal job.

[toggle_item title="How To Write A Winning Resume" ]Ozzie Saunds, of ResumeToronto.ca, was on hand at the 4th Annual Career, Education & Settlement Fair held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on July 8. A graduate of the University of Toronto in Employment Relations, Saunds is a nationally recognized resume expert. Here are some of his key pieces of advice to new Canadians when writing their resume and preparing for an interview.

Quantify Your Accomplishments: “The name of the company and who you worked for is not that important, what is important is that whoever you worked for, you’re describing your accomplishments, and any time you can quantify your accomplishments, that’s what’s going to dramatically win you interviews.”

Understand the Job Market Demands: “Unfortunately the realistic situation is you’re coming to Canada, it’s going to be tough for you to get a job at the senior management or the same level that you got back home. You may have a title back home such as senior executive, such as CEO, such as CFO and then someone’s going to look at that resume and say you’re over-qualified for this job in Canada. So one of the things that you want to do is use those job titles that describe you as entry to mid-level unless you know you have a skill that’s in high demand – find out what those high in demand skills are in Canada.”

Know the Canadian Way: “I see a lot of stuff like pictures from newcomers, date of birth, marital status, a lot of that stuff is required information for example in the Middle East, but that same information in Canada some human resources managers won’t even look at it because they’re afraid of discrimination laws and they can’t look at it even if they wanted to.”

Continuously Improve: “The best advice I can give you is, you do need to make an effort to improve [your English], whether it’s having more English-speaking friends, watching TV in English, reading … the number one question that a lot of recruiters ask when looking at job candidates or when checking references is communication skills. And, if their communication skills are not good, they won’t get the job.”

Relationships Lead To Referrals: “It’s okay to talk about non-Canadian experience [on a resume]. At the same time, while they have that non-Canadian work experience they should be on LinkedIn building relationships … they have to work on networking, knowing more people, making sure they participate in any type of free new Canadian employment service. Because, of one of the easiest ways to get a job is by getting referred.”[/toggle_item]


But many of the attendees, who face barriers such as not knowing the language, not knowing anyone in Canada, and not having any Canadian work experience, may find his challenge daunting. Having immigrated to Canada in 2002 from India himself, Vardhmane can empathize with these struggles.

“[New Canadians often] develop a very negative mindset very early on that I’m a loser, I’m a victim and everyone is treating me badly,” he explains. “What you may find surprising is this, every person at every stage in life has challenges in a job search, I could be a white male who is 45, I will have some challenges in my job search, I could be a 60-year-old, I could be a 20-year-old I could be having challenges, whether I’m born here or not born here. But what tends to happen is we tend to look at it this way, I’m new in this country and I’m being penalized because of that.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][New Canadians often] develop a very negative mindset very early on that I’m a loser, I’m a victim and everyone is treating me badly.”[/quote]

During his workshop, Vardhmane shares that he has never been hired in Canada for a job that he has applied to in the traditional way of e-mailing a resume and cover letter. Rather, the opportunities that have come his way (he is also a part-time professor at Centennial, Seneca and George Brown colleges and the University of Toronto), have been because of relationships he’s built over time and networking.

“I think listening to people and positioning myself professionally with people [is why] people were willing to help me,” he shares, reminiscing about his early days in Canada. “Consistency of behaviour is very critical for people to be comfortable to refer you.”

[toggle_item title="
Guiding Principles For a Newcomer’s Job Search" active="true"]In May 2002, when Sujay Vardhmane arrived in Canada from India, he had a burning desire within him to achieve success as he defined it. And he wasn’t settling for any less. Twelve years later, Vardhmane is working as the Senior Manager of Global Employment Strategies at Scotiabank. He employed key strategic principles in his job search, which he candidly shared with New Canadian Media.

Adapt to Survive – “[Some newcomers take] the approach they would in their country of origin when job searching and the approach in Canada is very different so those who understand it and make that transition quickly are the ones that see success come in quicker.”

Brand Yourself – “Most newcomers tend to believe that their resume tells the whole story of who they are and what they’ve done. The resume is only the tip of the iceberg … For example, a simple question, tell me what your strengths are, very often a newcomer would say, “Well I’m educated, I’ve worked, I’ve done these type of things,” which focuses on the very hard skills. Where very often we’re expecting, “I’m personable, I’m good with people,” all of that. We don’t use that vocabulary at all, nor do we position that as a strength, so that’s again something they’re challenged with.”

Learn How Things Work – “If you don’t invest your time to understand how it works, then you will not know how to get ahead. You do that by talking to people, listening to people, it could be anyone, it could be someone who’s new to the country or someone who’s been here for a long time, you meet them at a store, talk and get to know them.”

Go Beyond Your Own People – “We tend to gravitate towards our comfort zone, whether it’s our own ethnic group or various other groups and we think it’s only people of those groups that will help us. We’ve chosen to come to a country that’s multicultural and diverse, and if we limit ourselves to our own pockets and silos then we’re limiting our own potential and opportunities.”

Be Flexible – “We are limiting ourselves. What we don’t understand is it’s not what we’ve done, but what competencies are needed for us to be successful … It’s like I’m an HR (Human Resources) professional, I only want an HR job, and well the first job I got was teaching in HR, what’s wrong with that? Take it. Rather than have a closed mind to that.”[/toggle_item]

Networking was stressed throughout the day as the number one most important thing newcomers must do to achieve whatever success they are pursuing. Corporate trainer, career specialist and workplace coach, Colleen Clarke, emphasizes this in her workshop, Networking How To Build Relationships That Count. She says newcomers should start the process even before they set foot on Canadian soil.

“I had a client a few years ago, he’s become a huge success here. Before he came to Canada – he knew he was immigrating here – we worked together long distance,” she shares. “He came here with the names of 20 people to contact of people back in Mumbai who knew people in Toronto. So when he came to Toronto he already had 20 phone numbers from the people in Mumbai who had family or relatives here.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Consistency of behaviour is very critical for people to be comfortable to refer you.”[/quote]

Upon arriving in Canada, continue connecting with the people who you know from your day-to-day life, she adds. “Try to start with people that you know. Your bank teller, your hair dresser, the people within your own ethnic community, your children go to school, you must know some of the parents of the children.”

She closes by reminding attendees that it isn’t the first person they network with that will give them a job, but by building strong, positive relationships with several people, through the ideology of “six degrees of separation” where someone knows someone who knows someone, job referrals can and will happen. 

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Published in Top Stories
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New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved