On the two sides of Canada’s economic recovery, Tavia Grant and Jennifer Yang chronicled the plight of immigrants in the work force.

While an astonishing 60,000 more women age 55 and over successfully entered the labour force , immigrants are losing their jobs at more than three times the rate of Canadian-born workers.

The story found that, for Canadian-born workers, employment fell 1.6 per cent over the past year. By comparison, immigrants who have been in the country five years or less saw a decline of 5.7 per cent. The story also said that immigrants will spend more time looking for a new job.

Tavia Grant and Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, took reader questions on the topic on Tuesday, July 28, at noon.

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions and posted comments.

TRIEC creates and champions solutions to help integrate skilled immigrants into the Greater Toronto Region labour market. Ms. McIsaac has worked with the council since it was launched in 2003. On the issue of immigrant labour market integration, Ms. McIsaac has most recently co-authored Making the Connections: Ottawa’s Role in Immigrant Employment and Integrating Immigrants in Canada: Addressing Skills Diversity.

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: Hi, Elizabeth. Thanks so much for joining us today. Globe and Mail workplace reporter Tavia Grant, who wrote about immigrants’ experiences with Jennifer Yang for our Saturday paper, is also joining us.
Their story sparked a lot of debate and reader questions. Elizabeth, did you have any initial thoughts on this topic or on Statistics Canada’s findings that unemployment in Canada has risen much higher among immigrants who have been in the country five years or less?

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: First, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this online discussion about an issue that I believe continues to be of critical importance to the future productivity and prosperity of Canada and its cities.

I think that Tavia and Jennifer did an excellent job of bringing to light the complexity of this issue. The numbers from Statistics Canada confirm what we had been hearing anecdotally and knew intuitively, that immigrants are being disproportionately affected by the recession. Of course this is not surprising, as this played out similarly in previous recessions.

What is of growing concern for Canada, and in particular Canadian cities, is that today immigrants constitute a core element of the general population and by extension the labour force – almost 50 per cent of residents in the Toronto Region were born outside of Canada. What happens to them in a recession and a much anticipated recovery will have significant bearing on our overall productivity and prosperity. The skills and experience that immigrants bring to our economy offer promise for our competitiveness going forward. But if these very skills and experience are not effectively utilized in our labour market, our region will not reap the benefits that immigration can bring.

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: Thanks, Elizabeth. Tavia, did you have any initial thoughts?

Tavia Grant, workplace reporter: Hi Claire. Thanks for hosting this discussion. A few thoughts on reporting this story — the trend was something many people theorized was happening, partly because we know it happened in previous recessions, and partly because, if you go to any job fair or jobless networking group these days, it’s quite apparent. But without Statscan’s help in crunching the numbers, we wouldn’t have had much of a story. So a thank you to them.

One element we didn’t include — we got the data after the story was filed — is that immigrant men are particularly hard hit. This is likely due to the fact that many newcomers are working in industries — manufacturing and construction — that tend to have employ men. The broader idea of the “he-cession” or men losing their jobs faster in this recession than women, is something the Globe has reported on before.

The part of the story I found fascinating is what we’ve learned from past recessions: that newcomers who land in Canada during a downturn often never get back on track, and that for the broader immigrant population, re-entering the labour market even when the economy recovers poses extra challenges. Underemployment is a problem that will linger for years, and that has a host of ramifications — from more newcomers sliding into low-income status, to the fact that our economy is losing out what’s supposed to be a key source of labour in the coming years.

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: Thanks, Tavia. We’ll get straight to some reader questions now.

Sridhar Nadamun, Toronto: Hello Elizabeth McIsaac. I have been in Canada for over 7 years (immigrating in June 2002 from India as a Medical Writer) and find that jobs are insecure in this part of the world more than anywhere, what with employers hiring and firing their employees at will, regardless of the individual’s qualifications, expertise or contributions And I have been working on contracts, to keep myself going, and with all the upsides and downsides of being self-employed. What, in your opinion, is the solution to this employment conundrum in Canada?

Incidentally, I would like to know if the Globe and Mail employs any minorities (?) or has any hard statistics to report, in this regard?

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: The solution to any employment conundrum is complex. Unfortunately I don’t think there is a single silver bullet that will fix the issue in either the short or long term. In fact, some of the challenges you have described, particularly short term contract work, reflect some of the structural changes to the labour market that are evolving globally.

In this context it is important that immigrants – just like the Canadian-born – have the opportunities and the supports they need to succeed. There are specific programs that show real promise and demonstrated success. Bridging programs, for example, have been developed for a wide range of occupations and professions, and focus on filling any knowledge or skills gaps that may exist, enhancing occupation-specific language skills, and creating initial linkages to employers. Many of these programs have show high levels of success, in terms of participants finding full time employment in their field. But there will be challenges even for these programs during this recession.

Programs that link new immigrants to employers also demonstrate high levels of success. Internship programs that provide individuals with their first Canadian work experience (an elusive and sometimes tacit requirement in the labour market) offer immigrants a strong platform from which to launch their careers (see http://www.careerbridge.ca). At TRIEC we have also created a mentoring program (www.thementoringpartnership.com) that creates occupation-specific matches between a new immigrant and their established professional counterpart (i.e. sales manager with a sales manager). Over the course of four months, mentors offer advice on the local market and how to navigate a job search, share professional networks, and provide encouragement and support. The outcomes have been very impressive, with both mentors and mentees finding value and benefit, and employment opportunities becoming more accessible.

So back to your question, what is the solution? It is in our best interest to continue investing in initiatives that are successful in providing immigrants with opportunities, and where possible expand and replicate them. Many successes in one part of the country are not shared elsewhere. As well, I think we need more solutions. There is a need to continue to work with employers directly, and try new approaches that reflect their needs and help link them to talent that they may be missing out on.
In your particular case, Sheridan College offers a one-year bridging program for internationally-trained writers http://www1.sheridaninstitute.ca/programs/0809/pjitw/. You may also benefit from connecting with other immigrant professionals who can share their strategies for success. CAMP (www.campnetworking.ca ) is a networking organization for internationally-trained professionals in communications, advertising and marketing that meets regularly with employers and industry associations, and shares job leads.

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: Thanks Elizabeth. And Sridhar, to answer your question about The Globe and Mail, our Human Resources department says that Statistical information, while not publicly shared, is internally tracked and referenced to inform practices around recruitment/selection/promotion and, more broadly, diversity and inclusion.

Beyond its required compliance with the Government’s Federal Contractors Program, The Globe and Mail has been actively diversifying its employee base, creating opportunities to hire, promote and develop editorial talent as well as other professional and semi-professional roles in our organization. This has involved an integrated and collaborative approach that considers images and text in our content, as well as our advertisements and our climate as a workplace. As Canada’s national newspaper, we are committed to representing and reflecting the growing diversity of our country.

Carolyn: How well do you think a Canadian would do in a foreign country looking for a Job?

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: Just as there are many factors which affect how well an immigrant to Canada will do (and many do very well), I think the same is true for a Canadian who goes overseas. It will depend first on their skill level and occupation, and whether they are entering the labour market as an unskilled labourer or seeking a mid-career level professional position. If it is the latter, it will be affected by how well they speak the language(s) required and whether they require recognition of their credentials (doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers will often have to be recognized by local jurisdictions in order to practice their profession). It will be affected by whether they have connections and linkages to employers and have an active professional network. And it will vary from country to country, local labour market demands, and particular approaches to foreign workers. In short, unless they are well connected or have active job leads waiting for them, I think they will face some of the same challenges that immigrants to Canada face.

What may be very different, however, is the fact that their pursuit of employment will not likely be accompanied by an invitation to become a citizen of that country. Canada is among a small group of countries, that provides opportunities for citizenship after a short residency period. In so doing, we actively invite prospective immigrants to become part of our national story. When compared to other countries, Canadian attitudes are much more positive towards immigration and immigrants. We understand the contribution that immigration has made to our past, and we know it will make an important contribution to our future prosperity.
It would be a missed opportunity for a country that would not take advantage of a skilled Canadian – just as we are missing an opportunity when we do not recognize the skills of immigrants. If we want to continue to attract the best and the brightest, we need to signal to the world that we are welcoming and open for business.

Tavia Grant, workplace reporter: Hi Carolyn. I’m sure the experience of Canadians looking for work in other countries varies widely, depending on who you are and where you go. By far the largest destination for working Canadians is still the U.S. As a Canadian, I’ve worked in several other countries, and each time had huge difficulties in finding a job because of either language challenges, work permits or not having a network in the country I was living in. The importance of networks can’t be overstated: some studies show up to 80 per cent of jobs are “hidden,” meaning they are unadvertised and publicized through word of mouth.
If you’re interested in more about Canadians working abroad, here’s a Statscan report published last year on the topic. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/080313/dq080313c-eng.htm.

Migration is spiking all over the world as trade becomes more globalized, and consequently many countries, not just Canada, are wrestling with how to most effectively integrate newcomers into the work force. Among industrialized countries, this issue is likely to become more pressing as the population ages and labour shortages grow.

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: Some of our readers raise interesting points via online comments. Here are a few.

Ana M (via online comments): Those statistics are not surprising, my husband and I came to this country 5 years ago and have not been able to get a job in our field even though we have the qualifications and have acquired the so called “Canadian experience” through volunteering, which by the way does not take you anywhere, since in the environmental sector most of the companies operate through volunteers. We have applied to every job that we have the skills for and have received no response at all. We have tried all the job search programs through different agencies available in the city, but at the end all they want, is that you get a job in anything (not exactly in your field), so they can increase their own statistics and keep receiving their grants.
It is very disappointing to go to a meeting in be advised to change your careers for nursery or plumbing, because there is where the jobs are, after you have passed through the university and work hard to learn and get the skills you have.
I am going to tell you what is left for us as immigrants, two ways, one is going back to the university and getting into a huge debt hoping to make enough connections and that the title helps you somehow, and the other (what most of the people do) is to start cleaning “your houses and offices” and being underpaid for the rest of your life.

Tavia Grant, workplace reporter: Hi Ana. Thanks for your insights. One challenge you alluded to is just how swiftly the labour market changes — often by the time people go through retraining and do the volunteer work, the skills shortages will have shifted and the hiring moved elsewhere. It’s a conundrum not easily resolved. But at least one national body is investigating this issue — the Advisory Panel on Labour Market Information, which is being headed by Toronto-Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond. Its recent report strongly recommended Canada improve its system of collecting and sharing information on labour market trends. Hopefully, the recommendations of this panel will go some way towards improving our understanding of future labour needs.

You mentioned volunteering and going through job searches…to those I would add mentoring — finding someone in your field willing to take time to provide advice — along with networking in any capacity you can. There are more and more ways to network, especially online, and many people in this recession have been able to land a job thanks to networking.

juvarya8 (via online comments): I agree – despite all the talk of Canada being open to immigrants, my experience has been a tough slog with little help along the way. I had a degree from the University of London and over 4 years of relevant work experience when I moved here. I moved here for school and got some Canadian educational experience as well as some temp jobs along the way. Result? Nothing. If it wasn’t UBC or SFU employers did not have the imagination to understand my qualifications.

I have highly qualified New Zealand friends who get turned down for simple administrative jobs because they ‘have an accent’. The job market here is provincial and insular, and the immigration policy seems to be to welcome over qualified people then make them drive cabs. The safest place to have a heart attack in Vancouver is in the back of a taxi as your driver is probably a fully qualified physician.

My dad is a psychiatrist – a highly in demand profession – and he is only allowed to work on a temporary permit. How do people make life decisions when everything is temporary? Plus, on losing a job the immigrant doesn’t just have to face unemployment, they may have to repatriate to a country where, after 4 or 5 years, they don’t know anyone and leave a fully developed network in Canada. I faced this situation last year after a re-structuring and was told I had 4 weeks to find another job – that was also open minded enough to sponsor me – or to go home. After 4 years of living here and over $30,000 in university fees, and 2 years of paying taxes and EI Shame on the Canadian immigration system and so called support services.

Far Side (via online comments): We need to have filters for sure and we do need to be flexible enough for new comers to get certified in their field in a standard manner. My beef is with the OMA which systematically puts up barriers to take care of their own first. A good example is the OMA which will allow doctors from third world countries such as South Africa to get through quickly but put up high barriers to those who graduate from England and Europe. Somehow, it seems as there is disproportionate discrimination and we want to have this systemic behavior exposed and explained Of course this is a touch subject but can someone please explain why doctors from South Africa or Israel are better trained than those from England and Europe?

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: Unfortunately the experiences posted in the comments are neither unique nor new. The fact of skilled immigrant underemployment speaks to a labour market failure that we are seeing across the country. The accounts posted here are important because they highlight the barriers and challenges that many immigrants face; no Canadian work experience, credentials not recognized, lack of networks to tap into the hidden job market, and discrimination. Some of the particular occupations mentioned require a longer or separate debate, like doctors. They are complex and involve many players.

I think that in many cases we have seen change happen over the last 10 years. There are regulatory bodies taking steps to be more effective at recognizing credentials, in Ontario a Fairness Commissioner has been appointed to oversee the regulatory bodies, more employers are actively involved in finding solutions, and governments are working more together on the issue. Initiatives like the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council are focused on bringing these players together and to initiate action that will better connect immigrants to employers and vice versa. But there is much more still to be done, and it will be important to keep this issue on the radar so that we can continue making progress and change happen.

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: Thanks, Elizabeth. Can you tell us about what is being done to prepare immigrants for the job market in Canada before they arrive. What overseas programs/initiatives are under way?

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: The federal government has funded an overseas initiative called the Canadian Immigration Integration Project (CIIP) http://ciip.accc.ca which provides information, referral and counselling services to immigrants approved for visas in Guangzhou (China), New Delhi (India) and Manila (Philippines). These services are supporting the skilled worker program so that better information and more effective linkages can begin before immigrants arrive.

As well, the Foreign Credential Referral Office of the federal government has an online platform www.credentials.gc.ca for providing information to immigrants before they arrive and once they are in Canada, and also information for employers. On this site there is a very useful online tool, Working in Canada, that allows an immigrant to input their occupation and explore the opportunities and requirements by province and even community. Information on licensing requirements, labour market opportunities, salary expectations and more can be found using this tool.

John Meyer, Midland: Dear Elizabeth, Through out my 45 year working life I’ve seen scores of examples of immigrant labour being used to undercut wage rates and do “the dirty low paid jobs” Canadians don’t want to do. This seemingly unlimited pool of cheap labour has resulted in the Canada having the lowest rate of productivity increase in the OECD and lowest rate of percapita income increase for over 30 years.

It isn’t surprising that immigrants are seeing the highest rate of job loss since the jobs they hold are the least valued and they are the first to go. Also, they are being displaced by the continued high rate of immigration (Canada has the highest percapita rate in the world over 40 years).

Are you looking at the problem from a perspective of slowing down the rate of immigration to a level which will allow the slack to go out of the unemployment pool and for wage rates to go up?

Tavia Grant, workplace reporter: Hi John, thanks for the question. Without getting into a policy discussion here, I’d like to make two points: as Canada’s work force ages and our population growth slows, our government is banking on immigrants to fill key gaps in the labour market. By 2011, for example, the country will depend on immigration for net labour growth. That’s the longer-term plan. In the short term, given that we know immigrants who arrive during recessions tend to face scarring in terms of their future career prospects, adapting policy is a huge challenge. Last week, the Toronto-based Maytree Foundation published a report on this very topic. The link is here: http://www.maytree.com/policy.

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: It is true that we can likely attribute much of the current unemployment figures being experienced by immigrants, especially those who have arrived in the last ten years, to that fact that they are highly represented in the manufacturing sector, which has taken the biggest hit in this recession. And I would also agree that underutilization of skills available in the market will have a negative effect on productivity.
But I am not sure that we can say that they are being displaced by high rates of immigration generally. It is well established that we will need to grow our population, and in particular the skills in our labour market, if we want to be able to compete in a global market. As such, I would not suggest that the answer is to slow down the rate of immigration, but rather to invest in the effective utilization of those skills so that the local economies can grow, compete and prosper. It is absolutely in our best interest and in the interest of productivity to get those skills to work.

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: And what would you say is the role of employers in addressing these statistics?

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: Employers need to be creative in this challenging time. Immigrants and the skills they bring are one way to do this. They bring skills (including language skills), knowledge and social networks that can help us to reach out to emerging markets like China and India, particularly at a time when the U.S. economy is faltering. There are many examples of how companies are doing this already.

For example, Nytric Limited, a Mississauga-based innovation-consulting and venture technology firm, with input from their Indian-born staff, altered a family DVD game to reflect the colloquialisms of South Asian cultures and increased the product’s marketing appeal overseas. Employees fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese help the company negotiate with Chinese suppliers and oversee international manufacturing. http://www.hireimmigrants.ca/who/1/3#RBCea

In addition, employers need to be need to be recovery-ready. With the Bank of Canada reporting that the end of the recession is in sight, employers need to be thinking about their long-term talent strategies.

The Canadian-born workforce is shrinking and by 2011 all of our labour force growth is predicted to come from immigration. In this context, employers need to figure out how best to maximize the talents of immigrants. Resources like www.hireimmigrants.ca can help employers.

Tavia Grant, workplace reporter: Many employers by now are aware of the business sense of diversifying their work force. Implementing it, though, poses other challenges. The strategy won’t work without some frank and open dialogue, not just about the importance and benefits of diversity but also the fact that culture does shape behaviour, and we may not all go about things the same way. We may not speak English as a first language. We may have different notions of time, personal space or humour. It’s an ongoing process, and there are plenty of success stories — from Steam Whistle brewery in Toronto to IBM Canada. It’s certainly an opportunity to set a global example of how to manage a truly international, diverse work force.

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: Tavia, Steam Whistle Brewing and IBM Canada are strong examples and also online at www.hireimmigrants.ca/who.

Cíntia: Canada wants to attract skilled workers and professionals to join the country’s skilled workforce, however when most immigrants with those skills are here, they find it very hard and sometimes impossible to find a job that suits their qualifications since they are not able in many cases to obtain a proper recognition of their credentials in Canada. Professional associations have very Canadian criteria and fail to have the international perspective to be applied to foreign professions. Then, after the professionals immigrate they find it to be almost impossible to find a job in their field due to the lack of Canadian professional credentials. Because of this, Canada’s policy to attract skilled professionals fails to reach its primary objective which is to have new skilled professionals joint the country’s skilled workforce.
How does the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council see this problem and how is it working to find a solution for it? Thank you.

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: Cintia, you rightly point out many of the challenges and barriers that immigrants face. And I agree that these run counter to the objectives of Canadian immigration policy. TRIEC was established with primary purpose of bringing together all the stakeholders that have a role to play in this issue, and they are many (employers, professional associations, occupational regulatory bodies, credential assessment services, community agencies that serve immigrants, immigrant professional groups, labour, and all three levels of government) to find ways of working together to find solutions.

Our belief is that with all the players at one table, we are more likely to develop win-win solutions. Some of the initiatives that we have been able to develop with stakeholders have included Career Bridge www.careerbridge.ca , The Mentoring Partnership www.thementoringpartnership.com and www.hireimmigrants.ca . As well, we work in partnership with community agencies that serve immigrants directly and that provide effective employment programs for skilled immigrants. Links to these agencies can be found at http://www.thementoringpartnership.com/about-us/partner-organizations/

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: Thanks, Elizabeth. Here’s another interesting online comment from a reader.

MyViewPoint (via online comments): CanuckDoug is onto part of the problem with immigration. Sham lawyers and “immigration consultants” operate a huge industry in most countries around the world where locals want to leave for a host of reasons – not the least of which is to find a (better) job.
These businesses charge (sometimes outrageous) fees to assist with the immigration process, and of course inflate the hopes and dreams of their clients with outright lies so they’ll continue paying for “advice and assistance” until they are on a plane bound for one of our airports. Perhaps embassies in counties that are huge sources of emigrants should should “get the word out” that life in a new country isn’t as easy as these promoters suggest.

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: You have highlighted a real problem that immigrants face. It is particularly challenging because it operates outside our jurisdiction. The Government of Canada has taken steps to address the issue, including the establishment of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC), an independent and self-regulating body for immigration consultants, tasked with identifying the various problems within the immigration consulting industry http://www.csic-scci.ca/ .
But this situation can also be addressed by ensuring that the good information about immigration is provided directly to prospective immigrants. Work that I mentioned above with CIIP and the FCRO are good examples of these efforts by the federal government.

Don: How do you account for the exodus of Chinese back to China and what are the figures?

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: While I am not familiar with the statistics specific to the Chinese community, I do know that the research tells us that not all immigrants who arrive to Canada decide to make this their permanent home. According to a recent study, about a third of male immigrants who are between the ages of 25 and 45 when they arrive decide to leave within 20 years.

Most problematically, half of these leave within their first year in Canada. Not surprisingly, the rate of departure is higher during economic downturns, suggesting that the motivating factor is a lack of economic opportunities. If we want to be able to keep this talent, and build this country from immigration, then we need to pay attention to these facts and create better strategies for including them in the economy.

JMS: Hi Elizabeth, In the wake of Naomi Alboim’s recent report on the stare of our immigration system, I dub a little further into what some of the outcomes were of the shift towards immigrants coming in through the Provincial Nominee Program and the Foreign Temporary Worker program. While Canada’s overall demographics (our population pyramid now looks like a pine tree) indicate that immigrants should have an easier time finding employment in the coming years, the numbers available from BC suggest an immigration dynamic that seems to run counter to the nature of CIC’s Foreign Skilled Worker stream: these programs result in a de facto pre-screening mechanism that could be reinforcing the systemic biases that have made it difficult for FSW immigrants to find skills-appropriate employment.

For example, BC’s PNP has the following percentage breakdown for its top five source countries:

UK: 36.3%
USA: 23.5%
China: 17.6%
Germany: 11.8%
Korea: 10.8%

Whereas the top five source countries for immigrants coming to BC through the FSW stream is as follows:

China: 36.8%
India: 23.1%
Philippines: 17.6%
USA: 11.8%
Korea: 10.7%

As PNP immigrants need to have a job offer in place before applying, this would seem to suggest that employers’ preferences for attributes such as accent-free language skills and North American or European work experience are now de facto admission factors. This makes employment prospects for FSW immigrants even dimmer. What are your thoughts on how to address this paradoxical reality?

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: Thank you for this question, it is important. Since the 1970s, our federal immigration policy has intended to be as bias-free as possible, and it is very debatable that a system that relies on individual employers to select immigrants can produce the same effect. As Naomi’s report points out, there have been no formal evaluations of the various Provincial Nominee Programs. But we do know that skilled immigrants who are selected on the basis of their human capital by the federal government have the best labour market outcomes of all immigrants to Canada. The growth of the provincial nominee programs and the temporary worker program at the expense of the skilled immigrant program therefore is something that we should all be concerned about. This is not to say employers shouldn’t play an important role in immigration. But it is the federal government that should define our national interest and use immigration as a tool to meet these objectives.

Sean: Is there something being done to encourage employers to look at people with foreign credentials? It is a proven fact that diverse teams are more successful but that does not seem to be the logic in the Canadian market.

Tavia Grant, workplace reporter: Hi Sean. The recession tilted things upside down. Before the recession, many employers were more willing to recognize foreign credentials — particularly in Alberta, where labour shortages caused by a booming economy were so acute. Then the downturn happened. Companies starting laying people off. The few that are hiring now have a huge pool to choose from. As Karol Adamowicz, director of careers services and research at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, told me last week, “there’s a lot of people for employers to choose from now, so they’re not willing to take a risk on an immigrant whose credentials may or may not be clear. Employers are being more picky.”

That trend should shift again once the economy recuperates, hiring picks up and employers compete over attracting the best people. That, however, will take months and possibly years. In the meantime, the federal government allocated more funds towards recognizing foreign credentials in its latest budget; I have no idea how effective that has been.

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: Thank you Sean. You are right, research tells us that diverse teams are more innovative, more creative and more productive. Encouraging employers to look at hiring individuals with foreign credentials is a matter of communicating the business case to them.

In Toronto, we have found some of the larger employers understand the business case — they know their markets are diverse and that they need diverse teams to effectively reach their market. Larger employers have the capacity to develop strategies and approaches to this.

TRIEC works to get this message to small and medium sized employers. It is quite possible that given their limited human resources capacity, there could be a role for government to support them in this and even create incentives.

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: Elizabeth and Tavia, thanks so much for taking the time to answer so many diverse questions from our readers.

Tavia Grant, workplace reporter: Claire, thanks for the chance to field questions on such a pressing issue. And thank you to Mohammed, Mehdi, Sanjeev, Bhagwan and others who shared their personal stories of hope and frustration. Their accounts of the struggle to find meaningful work, to be contributing members of Canadian society, and to provide better lives for their children, were profoundly moving. This is an important macro story for all Canadians. But the micro side — the individual experiences — are what breathed life into the story. T.

Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council: Thank you again for including TRIEC in this discussion.

It is very important that we have these kinds of open discussions on immigration, on what’s working and what can be improvedThis recession is affecting many people, both new Canadians and the Canadian-born. Increasingly, and particularly in Canadian cities, immigrant employment is not a separate issue from overall workforce development; immigrants have become a central part of the country’s labour force strategy. The focus for policy makers and employers must be to recognize the skills that immigrants are bringing. This will ensure that as the recovery unfolds, we are ready to increase our productivity and compete internationally.

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: Thanks as well to all of our readers who took the time to send in questions and post comments on our discussion. Elizabeth has provided some helpful links where more information can be found:

For employers:
Visit www.hireimmigrants.ca where you can find tools and resources to help your organizations better recruit, retain and integrate skilled immigrants, as well as case studies on businesses that have already leveraged this talent pool.
To learn about what initiatives are happening in your community, visit www.maytree.com/allies.

For immigrants who haven’t yet found work in their field:

In the GTA:
Learn about The Mentoring Partnership at www.thementoringpartnership.com
Find out about internships at www.careerbridge.ca
Job search support, language training and other programs at www.casip.ca
Read immigrant success stories here www.triec.ca/20journeys

For programs in Ontario visit: www.settlement.org

Across the country: www.goingtocanada.gc.ca


Reference: Globe and Mail