Most skilled immigrants arrive in Canada hoping to find employment in occupations in line with their education and experience prior to coming to Canada. Yet for many, this process can be challenging. Often, that means coming up with a back-up plan. Alternative careers can serve as an option for immigrants to use their skills and experience to gain meaningful employment. For some, the transition becomes their new career path. For others, it’s the back-up plan while still pursuing their original career goals.
According to the 2015 Canadian Public Policy research on Employment Match Rates in Regulated Professions, only 24.1 per cent of internationally educated immigrants are working in their profession, compared to 51.5 per cent of the Canadian born and educated. Because of the increased difficulty for Internationally Educated Professionals (IEPs) to work in their field, alternative careers take on an added importance for skilled immigrants looking to use their skills and experience in a meaningful way.
With this in mind, several organizations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are helping skilled immigrants find alternative employment. Community Matters Toronto (CMT), a partner with TRIEC’s Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs) program, is one of these. CMT supports immigrants in many different professions by provide mentoring, employment preparation support and networking opportunities to them.
Supporting alternative careers for healthcare professionals
Over the years, TRIEC has witnessed time and again the challenges faced by Internationally-Trained Health Professionals (IEHPs) in obtaining licensure and pursue their careers in Canada. To support healthcare professionals find meaningful employment despite these challenges, TRIEC partnered with CMT in the Drs2Drs project.
In April 2014, CMT organized a forum with over 30 skilled immigrants from the healthcare profession. “We learned that international medical graduates face many issues in Canada relative to their career, accreditation and alternative employment… the employment-search process was frustrating,” explained Margaret Coshan, the Executive Director of CMT. “We connected with TRIEC and learned of other PINs associations [for healthcare professionals] who were experiencing similar issues.”
This led to the creation of the Drs2Drs group to address issues concerning internationally trained doctors. The group meets every month and focuses on finding and developing solutions to help healthcare professionals transition to all careers.
“Joining the group has been great because it has brought together different [professional immigrant] leaders in the health sector to address the challenges we face in Ontario with one voice,” said Dr. Nicodeme Mugisho, a leader from the International Medical Graduates – Waste Prevention Network, who was among the founding members of the Drs2Drs group.
First steps can lead to big results
CMT started the Alternative Careers for IEHPs program to help internationally trained health professionals’ quest for alternative employment. The program includes a 10-week training and workshop experience and peer support for participants. The focus is on finding transferable skills and experiences of professionals and helping them present it in a way that helps them crack the door open to their chosen career in Canada.
One of those participants was Dr. Nicodeme, himself.
“CMT invited me to participate in the Job Club in October 2015 and provide feedback on the program. I soon realized that the program was applicable to myself and started applying the suggestions I received,” he said. “The learning paid off because I was able to get multiple interviews and landed a job in the pharmaceutical industry.”
Alternative careers can be a positive option
“Alternative careers offer a wide variety of opportunities for immigrant professionals to use their skills meaningfully in Canada and help them gain employment without spending huge amounts of money and time re-educating. These careers may not be what was originally perceived by the immigrant but will result in similar outcomes,” said Margaret.
Dr. Nicodeme had a similar outlook, “Alternative careers are a great option for the simple reason that it makes sense on all levels, considering the challenges we face for licensure. It is a plan B that has more chances of being plan A than plan A itself.”
Dr. Nicodeme continued, “I can now confidently say to any skilled immigrant that failing to plan for an alternative career is planning to fail in your main career.”
It’s is important to remember though, that a career plan B still requires a plan. Margaret from CMT advised: “Learning the Canadian job-seeking methodology is vital. Understanding the uniqueness of the combination of [your] personal skills and the wide array of opportunities available, coupled with a committed approach to career development will lead to meaningful and rewarding careers.”