But newcomers face barriers to employment: Minister

Toronto Sun
February 21, 2009

Brett Clarkson

A record level of newcomers were admitted to Canada in 2008, citizenship and imimigration minister Jason Kenney announced yesterday to a conference geared toward helping more immigrants land jobs in their professions.

“We welcomed an unprecedented 519,722 newcomers to Canada in 2008, the largest number in Canada’s history,” Kenney said. “This number includes over 247,000 permanent residents, 143,000 temporary foreign workers, and over 79,000 foreign students.”

Kenney was speaking at the Progress Career Planning Institute’s Internationally Educated Professionals (IEP) conference yesterday, an event that drew about 1,100 immigrants and new Canadians to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to network and strategize about how to overcome barriers to employment in their fields.

Many of the participants, including trained engineers, doctors, accountants and other professionals trained in their native countries, spoke about the hardships they face in trying to resume their careers in Canada.

Kenney said the federal government is working to ease the transition process for skilled immigrant workers. He referenced the prime minister’s recently announced plan to build a national framework for foreign credential recognition — which Kenney said will hopefully ease the red tape and provide more clarity for skilled immigrants.

“We all know the tragedy of so many people, perhaps some of you, who have arrived in the country with the hope and promise of working in your chosen profession, who have ended up in survival jobs or being underemployed as it relates to your skill level,” Kenney said. “That is intolerable. Those days must end.”

Conference chair Jane Enright said the event, which also brought out policy-makers and employers, cited numbers that allude to a disparity between foreign-educated immigrants and their Canadian-educated counterparts.

According to Statistics Canada, more than 50% of recent immigrants to this country hold university degrees, more than twice the proportion of university graduates born in Canadian.

However, unemployment among immigrants is 6.6%, compared to the 4.6% for Canadian-born workers. That unemployment rate jumps to 11.8% for immigrants living in Toronto.

“One of the issues we have in Canada is that Canada is host to between 100,000 and 150,000 university-educated professionals each year, however the reality is they’re not all getting jobs in their field,” Enright said.

Kenney said the government will also “substantially increase” the number of foreign students allowed into this country, but didn’t give a figure about how many would be permitted entry to study.

Secret Seven

At yesterday’s IEP 2009 Conference, Canadian Immigrant magazine publisher Naeem “Nick” Noorani spoke of his Seven Success Secrets for Canadian Immigrants:

1) Learn English. “The most important thing is the language,” Noorani said. “I don’t care how well-qualified you are. You need to know the language.”

2) Stay Positive. “It’s so easy to become negative. Canada doesn’t choose immigrants, we choose our future citizens.”

3) Embrace Canada. “This is your country for the rest of your life. You need to fall in love with your country.”

4) Have a Plan B. In other words, don’t put all your career options in one basket, Noorani said.

5) Move out of ethnic silos. “Embrace all communities. The more people you have as friends who are outside of your ethnic circle, the more success you will have.”

6) Take risks. “We’re natural risk-takers. We’ve left everything behind. We’ve left our families and our friends behind, but not just because we are risk-takers, but because we are visionaries.”

7) Volunteer, Mentorship, Networking. Get to know as many people as possible while gaining as much Canadian employment experience as possible, Noorani said.

By the Numbers

519,722: number of newcomers admitted to Canada in 2008

247,202: number of permanent residents welcomed to Canada in 2008

193,061: number of temporary foreign workers admitted to Canada in 2008

79,459: number of foreign students welcomed to Canada in 2008

6.6%: rate of unemployment among immigrants across Canada

4.6%: rate of unemployment among Canadian-born workers in Canada

11.8%: rate of unemployment among immigrants in Toronto

$26,636: median income of average recent educated immigrant in Canada

$57,6565: median income of average Canadian-born person

Reference: Toronto Sun