TRIEC was founded in 2002 to bring leaders together from all sectors of society to create and champion solutions for the better integration of skilled immigrants into the Greater Toronto Region labour market. Every year, a city’s worth of new immigrants are welcomed to Canada – in 2014 alone, 260,404 permanent residents arrived in Canada.
However, many newcomers require support to effectively enter the labour market at a level commensurate with their skills and experience. In addition, the current influx of refugees will require support in this area over the coming years. It is important that the foundation for that support is laid now.
In the Speech from the Throne, the Federal Government underscored its belief in the value of Canada’s diverse residents with the statement “Diversity is Canada’s strength.” TRIEC welcomes the Government’s commitment to make it “easier for immigrants to build successful lives in Canada, reunite their families, and contribute to the economic success of all Canadians.”
Nonetheless, immigrants currently face a variety of challenges when it comes to fully integrating into the labour market. Over the last decade, TRIEC has been engaged in a wide range of solutions to help overcome these barriers but one program stands out.
The Mentoring Partnership, coordinated by TRIEC, is a proven, evidence-based intervention that delivers a return of $10.50 in benefits to society for every $1 invested. Since 2004, the program has supported over 11,500 skilled immigrants and currently serves approximately 1,300 each year. A $10 million annual investment in employment mentoring programs across Canada would increase the number of immigrants served to nearly 6,000 with a net economic impact of approximately $105 million for Canada. TRIEC calls on the Government to embrace this proven solution and support its growth across the country.
Recommendation: Establish a fund of $10 million annually to support the implementation of increased employment mentoring opportunities for skilled immigrants across the country.
Immigrant unemployment and underemployment: The challenge persists
Immigrants bring significant education, skills and experience to Canada. Over 51 per cent of recent immigrants have a university degree compared to 20 per cent of Canadian-born, yet once they arrive in Canada they suffer severe and chronic under- and unemployment. In 2011, the unemployment rate for recent immigrants (those in Canada between 5-10 years) was 8.2%; for very recent immigrants (in Canada less than 5 years) it increased to 13.6%. This is more than double that for Canadian-born individuals (5.5%).
Once employed, the struggle is not over. A significant wage gap exists between Canadian-born individuals and immigrants with the same level of educational attainment. According to the 2006 census, individuals with a university education between the ages of 25-34 earned an average of $45,100 annually if they were born in Canada, but only $29,200 if they were born elsewhere.
This gap costs the Canadian economy. In 2011, a study by RBC found that if immigrants’ skills were rewarded in a similar way to that of Canadian-born workers, the increase in their incomes would amount to $30.7-billion – or the equivalent of 2.1 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Mentoring: A proven solution
When immigrants have to re-establish themselves professionally in Canada they face barriers and gaps related to the loss of their “professional social capital” and a lack of local knowledge about their occupation in Canada. These are gaps that a mentor can help to bridge.
Studies show that social capital impacts labour market outcomes: a more ethnically diverse network plays an important role in the economic integration of immigrants through an increased likelihood of gaining employment. Not only do immigrants have smaller and less diverse networks than their Canadian-born counterparts, there is a link between the sources of information an immigrant uses to look for a job and their incomes. Those who rely on family and friends, and personal networks, end up in lower wage jobs than those who are able to access more specific information from more appropriate sources. Lack of access to the “hidden job market” and to professional networks is well known to impede the job search.
Since 2004, TRIEC has been coordinating The Mentoring Partnership, a collaboration of 24 employer and 15 community partners funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Government of Ontario and Manulife. The partnership targets immigrants who are experienced professionals and employment-ready for a professional level job in their field, but whose job search is impeded by the lack of sector or occupation specific “insider” knowledge and local professional networks so essential to a professional level job search.
It is a program that has been proven to work. Since inception, The Mentoring Partnership has paired over 11,500 recent immigrants with mentors in their field in the Toronto Region. Seventy-five per cent of mentees find employment in their field within one year of their mentoring partnership. A study by ALLIES, a program of Maytree, found that full-time earnings of immigrants who participated in The Mentoring Partnership and similar programs across the country increased from $36,905 to $59,944, an improvement of 62%.
What is more, The Mentoring Partnership is a cost-effective and high return/high impact investment. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), as part of a partnership between TRIEC and LEAP: The Centre for Social Impact, recently concluded an impact analysis and found that for the $1,700 the program invests per mentee, The Mentoring Partnership returns approximately $15,000 in benefits associated with taxes and another $2,000 in potential network affects to society. That works out to a return of $10.50 in benefits to society for every $1 invested. The BCG evaluation also determined that the initial investment per mentee is paid back within two years. This estimate is a conservative reflection of mentoring’s contribution as it does not quantify the further impact of employment on the health, well-being and future prosperity of immigrant families and the potential decrease in costs to social assistance required.
With increasing numbers of skilled immigrants, including refugees, coming to Canada in the coming years, the existing mentoring programs across the country will have to grow. TRIEC currently partners with six of these programs run by Immigrant Employment Councils (IECs) and similar organizations: IECBC (BC), CRIEC (Calgary), ERIEC (Edmonton), LMIEC (London-Middlesex), OCISO (Ottawa) and ISANS (Halifax). IEC mentoring programs have built upon the TRIEC model, but each community has modified the program to meet community needs and size. Annually these six partners deliver approximately 650 mentor matches through their programs. These IECs possess considerable potential to reach and support more immigrants with increased support. As well, there are approximately 50 other mentoring organizations across the country whose work is poised to scale up to meet increased demand. Together they could have considerable impact on the integration of skilled immigrants into the labour market across Canada.
TRIEC stands fully behind the statement that “Diversity is Canada’s Strength.” Immigrants, a key component of this diversity, add enormous value to the Canadian economy. They bring high levels of skills and education, foster innovation and creativity, and help Canadian companies do business with the world. Currently, however, we are not realizing the full potential of this dynamic component of Canadian society. Canada needs to do more to ensure immigrant inclusion in the economy.
We do not just want immigrants to settle in Canada; we want them to settle well. That means they need to find employment that is commensurate with their skills and experience. This is important for their well-being, for their families’ well-being, and also for the well-being of our regions and our country. We stand only to prosper further from more fully engaging their contributions.
Mentoring is a proven, evidence-based intervention that delivers results for the immigrant and for the Canadian economy. A $10 million annual investment from the federal government in employment mentoring programs across the country would, based on a $1,700 investment per mentee, serve over 5,900 skilled immigrants across Canada per year. This would result in a net economic impact of approximately $105 million for Canada. Skilled immigrants have made the choice to come to Canada and contribute to our country. We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to ensure they have the best opportunity for success.
The above was submitted to the 2016 Federal Pre-Budget Consultations.