Skilled newcomers face ‘huge’ hurdles to find jobs: government report

Federal Tories say they plan to unveil initiatives to tackle problems identified in new research.

OTTAWA — The Conservatives have made the recognition of foreign credentials for new immigrants a top priority, but skilled newcomers have told government-commissioned researchers there are “huge obstacles” preventing them from finding jobs even when they’re qualified to work here.

In a report prepared earlier this year by Environics Research, newcomers in 12 focus groups across the country said other issues hinder their ability to get work.

The participants – including doctors, pharmacists and engineers – said language barriers and requirements for Canadian experience on some job postings pose the biggest problems.

They said they suspected that Canadian experience requirements were “a coded way for employers to favour the Canadian-born,” the report said.

The participants also pointed to a lack of Canadian connections or networks and “difficulty in general social interactions due to language and cultural differences.”

The participants didn’t feel the issue of formal recognition of credentials was a major barrier to employment. There were also differences of opinion on the value of foreign credentials, depending on the participants’ country of origin.

“Many Chinese participants believe their training and work experience from China are of limited use in Canada because they feel that everything in China is so radically different from Canada that there is no way it could be applicable,” the report read.

“It was noted that a law degree from China in no way prepares anyone to practise law in Canada.”

A spokesman for Employment Minister Jason Kenney said the government commissioned the study in order to determine why skilled immigrants had trouble finding work. He added that the Tories plan to unveil initiatives soon aimed at tackling the problems.

“It’s a big priority for the fall,” said Nick Koolsbergen.

Earlier this summer, Kenney announced an agreement with the provinces to recognize 10 new occupations, including welders, carpenters and electricians, to improve foreign-credential recognition.

The government said one of the goals was to help lessen the need for temporary foreign workers by making better use of talent that’s already in Canada.

Two years ago, the Conservatives also introduced foreign credential recognition loans. They’ve issued more than a 1,000 of them to foreign- trained professionals to help them pay to have their credentials recognized in Canada through further training and instruction.

But the participants in the Environics report also urged the government to do more about raising awareness on credential issues. They recommended adding an education component to the immigration application process specifically focused on qualifications and working in Canada.

“From the participants’ perspective, the more details the better and the sooner they can find out about these details in their immigration process, the better,” the report said.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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