He found his computer skills in high demand and got a job quickly – now he’s settling in

Toronto Star
January 15, 2009

Shan Qiao
Special to the Star

Kevin Chen had it pretty good in China.

His career in information technology had blossomed with that country’s booming economy. By 2005, he was earning nearly 300,000 yuan (about $53,000 Canadian) per year – a lofty accomplishment for a person with less than 10 years’ experience.

Still, the Beijing native wanted to achieve more.

“Obviously, I hoped that immigrating to Canada would give me a better lifestyle, and allow me to expand my experience in IT,” Chen explains in Mandarin. A university graduate with a degree in computer science, he felt confident that immigrating was the right decision.

Real expectations

While hopeful about his prospects, Chen says he was under no illusion about finding a job in Canada. He was warned about the dismal employment situation in the IT industry by friends already here.


Chen landed in Ottawa on April 5, 2005, after a long flight from Beijing, via Vancouver. He had to find his way to the apartment his friends had rented him. He quickly learned that his 16 years of English training in China wasn’t enough. He struggled during the first few days to apply for identity cards, health insurance and enroll in a Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program.

Making contact

Ten days after his arrival, Chen posted his resumé on the Internet. An Ottawa-based IT consultancy, BAU Solutions Canada Inc., requested that he come in for an interview.

“I didn’t know where BAU was and I got lost. I couldn’t do anything, and I had to call the interviewer for directions,” he recalls. Worrying about the language barrier, his interviewer went to fetch him, accompanied by an employee who spoke Chinese.

Chen was hired the next day.

On the job

On his second day working for BAU, Chen was sent to Montreal to see a client. This time he didn’t get lost. His task was to assist in proposing a business solution to a problem. This, he was able to do.

In 2006, BAU Solutions was acquired by Deloitte. Chen was transferred to Toronto.

While confident his skills would allow him to keep his job, he says he had to adjust to working in a larger company.

Last year, Chen, 35, won a Deloitte employee’s award and received a gold medal for a project demonstration that helped improve sales. And he was selected as one of 20 immigrants who have contributed to the local labour market by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

Still learning

Chen, who recently became a Canadian citizen, is still working on his communications skills. He feels having imperfect language skills limits opportunities.

Employer’s story

Deloitte set Chen up with a colleague who showed him the basics, helping him adjust to the new corporate environment. After that, he was assigned a counsellor from among Deloitte’s senior managers to coach him, set goals and chart a career path.

“Whenever Deloitte brings anyone new to the firm, we team him up with a buddy to help him understand the culture of the organization,” says Jane Allen, Deloitte’s chief diversity officer.

The company also arranges for training based on needs for its employees. Chen received four to five weeks of special communications training to enhance his business writing and presentation skills.

This year, Allen says Deloitte plans to launch a program, called “I Buddy”, to provide mentoring, which will include communication and language training, to new immigrants who work in the company.

According to Allen, Deloitte has close to 138 staff who are mentors to TRIEC and the company recruits from the mentorship program.

She says Deloitte also reviewed diversity issues among senior managers.

“The role of chief diversity officer is to work with Deloitte’s partners and staff to create greater awareness about the value of people with different backgrounds,” Allen says.

“(In 2008) we hired 76 new immigrants.”

Over the past five years, Deloitte has helped 1,200 people through various programs, including the company’s global development program, in which “we’ll be bringing people from other countries, other Deloitte firms, to Canada for 18 months secondment to learn all the business in Canada and (then) go home to their country,” she says.


Stats on China

Kevin Chen was one of 262,240 immigrants who arrived in Canada in 2005. Of those newcomers, 42,292 (16 per cent) were Chinese immigrants, making China the top source country for immigration. The number of Chinese immigrants has declined every year since.

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada: Facts and Figures, Immigration Overview

Is the job a fit?

Statistics show 70 per cent of immigrants start their first job within six months of arrival. Of those who find employment, 42 per cent obtain a job in their intended occupation.

Source: Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada: Progress and Challenges of New Immigrants in the Workforce

Returning in numbers

China does not allow dual citizenship, so ex-pats must get a visa to visit. Applications for visas have increased dramatically alongside China’s economic growth: in 2006, the Toronto consulate processed about 70,000 applications; in 2007, more than 80,000, and in 2008, nearly 90,000, with about 10,000 in November and December when Ontario’s unemployment rate jumped to 7 per cent. This suggests immigrants find it hard here and are returning to China.

Reference: Toronto Star