Why are there so many unemployed immigrants in Canada, despite being a country that complains of a lack of professionals?

Because Canadian employers are particularly fearful of accepting the qualifications of anyone trained overseas (with the possible exception of medical doctors trained in the US or the UK).

This makes a mockery of the federal government’s professed interest in attracting highly-skilled immigrants, and means that experienced heart surgeons work as nursing assistants, or professors of economics work as taxi drivers.

I myself couldn’t find work as an architectural designer (which I had trained in) for ten months (far longer than I was ever unemployed in the past), until one day, an architectural firm that was desperate for a CAD (computer-aided-design) specialist advertised that they were looking for someone with experience in the particular CAD program that I had literally written the book on.

Instead of emailing or faxing them, as is usually the case, I went down to their office personally with a copy of my book, plonked it on the receptionist’s desk, smiled, and said: “Sorry, I couldn’t fit this through the fax machine…”

She fetched the boss from a meeting, who interviewed me immediately, and hired me on the spot. If I hadn’t happened to have written that book, I might still be looking for work…

Apart from the injustice of this blinkered attitude to these immigrants, it represents a potential loss of billions of dollars to the Canadian economy.

Contrast this with Israel, which in the early 1990s took in a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union—many of them doctors and engineers—and after giving them practical exams of their skills and teaching them a working knowledge of Hebrew, put them to work. The result was a technological boom that continues to this day…

If Canada does not learn how to make better use of its educated and highly trained immigrants, it will continue to be primarily a nation of (to paraphrase Joshua 9:27) “hewers of wood and drawers of oil”.

ADDENDUM: I’ve been asked how would Canada do this. Here are a few suggestions, which may cost a little, but give a return on investment many times over:

  • Make use of Canadian embassies and consulates in the immigrants’ country of origin to hire knowledgeable locals who can reliably check the veracity of the immigrants’ certificates of qualifications and/or references on their resumés
  • Draw up an easily accessible and well publicized list (online) of the accreditation and world ranking of foreign universities and other academic institutions—especially in fields such as medicine and engineering (of all kinds)
  • Offer a free or inexpensive service to Canadian employers where approved and trusted native speakers of the immigrants’ languages contact immigrant applicants’ former employers in their countries of origin—on the employers’ behalf—to verify the applicants’ claimed experience and performance. Have these phone or email conversations translated and made available to the requesting employer and all other local employers after that.
  • Issue a federal ban on local unions operating a ‘closed shop’ policy whereby anyone with qualifications not from the local province (much less outside Canada) is unrecognized until they redo their training locally.
  • Establish clear and Canada-wide accreditation tests and supplementary training courses for foreign-trained professionals, so they are not obliged to redo their entire training in order to qualify for local practice.

1 thought on “Why are there so many unemployed immigrants in Canada, despite being a country that complains of a lack of professionals?

  1. This is so true. When I was teaching ESL in Vancouver, I had classes full of doctors, engineers and other professionals whose day jobs were janitor, housekeeper, etc. because they couldn’t get qualified in Canada without jumping through a lot of hoops. And that was 30 years ago. I guess things haven’t changed much, sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

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