Recruiting and attracting IEPs will be essential when immigrants represent all labour market growth

Canadian HR Reporter
June 1, 2009
By Shannon Klie

Muhammad Riaz Siddiqui immigrated to Canada two years ago and settled his family in Mississauga, Ont. But because Siddiqui, who is a vice-president of HR at a large bank in Pakistan, hasn’t been able to find an HR job in Canada, he will most likely return to Pakistan.

For the past two years, Siddiqui, who is a member of the Toronto-based Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) and the Alexandria, Va.-based Society for Human Resources Management, has been sending out resumés but hasn’t been able to find a job commensurate with his decades of senior-level experience.

“I’m not being called,” he said. “I just want to start my career here. That’s why I got my immigration. But if I’m not getting any job, then what would I do here?”

The biggest barrier isn’t his international education but his lack of Canadian experience, he said. So Siddiqui would like to see the HRPA step in and help internationally educated professionals (IEPs) like himself. Ontario’s provincial association should offer an internship program similar to the ones offered through Career Bridge, an internship program for IEPs, but specifically for HR professionals, said Siddiqui.

“HRPA can play a very good role and a very vital role in bridging the gap,” he said.

The majority of respondents to a recent survey agree the HR profession, and HR associations, should do more to help IEPs integrate into the profession.

The latest Pulse Survey of 407 Canadian HR Reporter readers and HRPA members, of which 32.6 per cent are IEPs, finds just 22.1 per cent of respondents think the profession is doing enough to attract foreign-trained professionals to HR and help them integrate.

The majority of respondents, 83 per cent, think it is somewhat more difficult for an IEP to become a full member of the HR professional community than for other HR professionals.

However more than four in 10 respondents (43.5 per cent) say attracting and integrating IEPs into HR should be a top priority for associations. But the remaining respondents are split 26.7 per cent are uncertain this should be a top priority and 29.9 per cent say it shouldn’t be a top priority.

The attraction and integration of IEPs into the HR profession in Canada is absolutely critical, said Rhonda Singer, a 20-year HR veteran based in Toronto.

With 100 per cent of new labour force growth to come from immigrants in the next couple of years, HR as a profession needs to be more representative and understanding of that demographic, she said

IEPs bring a whole new perspective to HR because they have made the move to a new country and know what it’s like for newcomers to go through the recruitment, onboarding and performance management processes, she said.

“It only makes sense that you have a broader scope in your HR outlook by having IEPs,” said Singer.

When it comes to how associations should attract and integrate IEPs, the majority of respondents say mentoring programs are very important or essential (74.5 per cent), followed by bridging programs (69.2 per cent), outreach programs (51.9 per cent), networking events (51.6 per cent), flexible certification requirements (46.6 per cent), conferences for IEPs (41.8 per cent) and dedicated job boards (34.9 per cent).

While bridging programs and networks are useful, HR associations need to come up with a better way to assess international qualifications and experiences, said Murali Srinivas, who is originally from Southeast Asia and has been working in HR in Canada for six years.

While the credential assessment service World Education Services (WES) assessed his international degree as being equivalent to a Canadian master’s of management, the HRPA didn’t recognize the equivalency and had Srinivas go through a separate assessment process before he could attain the Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP) designation. Also, the HRPA didn’t recognize his professional certifications from international associations.

“They need to have a simplified process by which comparative qualifications can be assessed,” he said. “They do not seem to integrate that kind of a process with the existing credentialing body (WES). As a professional body, it seems to be creating more barriers to work.”

Associations should be more flexible when it comes to recognizing foreign credentials and experience to award the CHRP, agreed Singer. It would also help if IEPs were on the panel or committee that examines international experience and qualifications, she added.

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Reference: Canadian HR Reporter