Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Where in the World?

Career Development Practitioners (CDPs) understand that many of the immigrants who come to Canada are highly skilled, educated, and ready to work in their pre-immigration careers. In fact, some have been actively recruited to come here as skilled workers in identified professions with skill gaps (e.g., doctors), already having their credentials and education reviewed by the federal immigration branch. Unfortunately, many internationally trained professional (ITPs) experience multiple barriers to finding employment in the provinces they settle in. Many aren’t able to get their credentials recognized or obtain a mandatory license or certification to practice in a timely, cost-effective manner. Additionally, networking, preparing job search materials, adapting to the “Canadian” workplace, and obtaining relevant Canadian work experience can all prove challenging.

ITPs, global careerists, expatriates, repatriates, and other immigrants often encounter employers seeking Canadian work experience as a job requirement. The trouble is that, in order to get Canadian work experience, someone, somewhere has to hire you . . . but many employers won’t hire you unless you have experience working in Canada. Although some “survival jobs” in unrelated and entry-level positions can provide experience, these positions hardly meet economic needs or constitute the type of experience Canadian employers are looking for. Exasperated ITPs ask: How can I get Canadian work experience without Canadian work experience? Why does my pre-immigration experience count for nothing?
Employers may be struggling to truly understand the working world that immigrants come from. At the recent Career Development Conference (CDC) held in Vancouver each March by the BC Career Development Association (BCCCDA), Dr. Roberta Neault presented Where in the World? Helping Employers Understand the World Immigrants Come From. In it, Roberta took the audience on a virtual world tour, sharing personal experiences/photos and exploring case examples to illustrate how our traditional perception of the countries immigrants come from can impede their successful integration into the Canadian workforce and economy, or worse, tarnish their view of Canada as a whole. Yes, there is poverty, poor working conditions, and limited technology in many of the countries immigrants to Canada come from; however, not only are there segments of Canada that experience these same challenges, there are numerous examples of high-tech, cutting-edge work being done abroad. We (i.e., employers, employees, policy makers, and CDPs) must acknowledge and value the contributions ITPs and other immigrants can make in order to grow our economy and address skills gaps that are looming.

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