Canada good at wooing professionals, but not at accepting their skills, immigrant says

Toronto Star
Sep 20, 2007

Joanna Smith
Staff Reporter

When Alan Rego came to Canada from his native India five years ago, he discovered the land of opportunity he had dreamed about was actually full of closed doors.

“Any effort I would try to make with employers, it seemed to me that from their point of view, they didn’t have any reassurance or some way of knowing how good I am,” said Rego, 50, who had worked as a communications professional for multi-national companies in Asia.

“The challenge was, how can I show them the skills I had were transferable?”

In time he overcame that hurdle, and is now installed as manager of external relations at Procter & Gamble in Toronto.

Mindful of his experience, Rego now devotes personal time to helping other skilled immigrants find their way in the Canadian job market.

As a co-founder of Communications, Advertising and Marketing Professionals, or CAMP, a self-help networking group launched in 2005, Rego was cited for his contributions yesterday by receiving the Toronto Star People’s Choice achievement award.

He and Sischa Maharaj at CIBC joined four organizations in receiving the Immigration Success awards, in recognition of their efforts to help immigrants with professional credentials make the transition to meaningful employment in Greater Toronto.

The awards, in their second year, are an undertaking of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

Dreaming of a better life for his two daughters, now 22 and 17, Rego arrived in Canada five years ago determined to join the top ranks of communications professionals here.

When he came up against the doubts of potential employers on whether his skills would apply in a Canadian setting, Rego made ends meet by working as a financial adviser and market researcher.

Canada does a “great job” attracting professionals to move here, he said yesterday. “But the inconvenient truth staring us in the face is that we are not doing a good enough job of using their skills.”

Rego eventually landed a contract for paid work at consumer products giant Procter & Gamble through Career Bridge, an internship program for internationally trained professionals.

“That opened doors for me,” he said, and he now has a senior position in the firm’s communications department and also belongs to the Seneca College advisory council.

In May 2005, he was among several interns who formed CAMP, which has grown to 150 members and runs on the backs of volunteers without outside funding.

“It’s a self-help, immigrants helping other immigrants movement,” he said of the group, which meets once a month to share job leads and opportunities for immigrants to upgrade their skills.

“We don’t need to wait for government or industry to come and help us,” he said. “We should take the initiative to reach out to employers and recruiters and others.”

2007 Immigrant Success Award winners

Winners of the second annual Immigrant Success Awards, presented by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council:

Small Employer Award
Steam Whistle Brewing

Mid-Size Employer Award
Xerox Research Centre of Canada

Large Employer Award
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

Influencer Award
George Brown College

Canadian HR Reporter Individual Achievement Award
Sischa Maharaj of CIBC

The Toronto Star People’s Choice Award for Outstanding Achievement in Immigrant Success
Alan Rego, Procter & Gamble

Honourable Mentions
Small Employer: Community MicroSkills Development Centre
Influencer: Career Edge Organization

Reference: Toronto Star