Canadian immigrants’ efforts to find employment complicated by perceived skills mismatch

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: February 19, 2023

Skilled Canadian immigrants are being confronted by a perception that they may not possess the skills/aptitudes required to perform many of the same jobs in Canada that they might have performed in their country of origin.

This perception is built largely on three factors: immigrants’ lack of Canadian work experience, “language problems”, and pitfalls with respect to Canada’s recognition of foreign educational credentials and/or work experience.

In fact, University of Guelph human resources management expert Nita Chhinzer explicitly noted “biases” that exist among some employers in Canada. These biases, according to Chhinzer, result in the discrediting of foreign education/work experience by employers as well as assumptions being made about an immigrant’s language proficiency.

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Unfortunately, this reality has had a noticeably negative effect on the lived experience of some immigrants in this country.

Consequences of this perceived skills mismatch for Canadian immigrants

One consequence of the prevailing perception around the immigrant skills mismatch is that newcomers to Canada are seemingly being passed over for job opportunities rather than being given adequate training to try and mitigate these issues.

This is evident in the words of Bank of Canada (BoC) Governor Tiff Macklem. Recognizing Canada’s need for heightened immigration to support Canada’s workforce, Macklem mentioned the following about immigrants at his November 10th speech organized by the Public Policy Forum of Toronto.

“Increased immigration adds potential workers. … Governments need to ensure newcomers have a smooth path into the workforce, with credential recognition and settlement support like language and skills training. … Businesses [also] need to invest in training so we can reduce the skills mismatch.”

Note: During this speech, Macklem also pushed back against the idea of a severe skills mismatch between immigrants and employment opportunities in Canada.

The belief that Canadian immigrants are not suited to perform skilled work due to a “skills mismatch” has also driven some newcomers to feel discouraged about their prospects for a prosperous future in this country.

For instance, one Indian immigrant who moved to Toronto in June of last year said that her inability to find a job in Canada was a “heartbreaking” reality. After working as a human resources manager in Mumbai for over a decade, Tanya Raizada immigrated to Canada and applied for 600 jobs in just under four months. After receiving just 20 interview calls and zero job offers, she decided to move back to India in September 2022.

In an interview she did with Global News, Raizada said “I was personally feeling like a failure [in Canada].”

Ultimately, these consequences have the potential to be detrimental to the Canadian experience of immigrants across the country, but there may be a way to begin rectifying this problem.

Working to rectify this problem for immigrants to Canada

Rectifying the perception that immigrants in this country suffer from a skills mismatch that makes them poor candidates for Canadian employment opportunities begins with a policy review at the government level.

A review of current immigration and employment policy could help Canada better align foreign work experience with Canadian work experience, which would better enable employers in this country to recognize the value an immigrant brings with them to Canada through their international employment history. The same can be said for the alignment of educational credentials from other countries to degrees, diplomas and certificates awarded in Canada. Finally, as suggested by BoC Governor Tiff Macklem, reviewing and altering government policy may be the first step to providing immigrants with better language and skills training.

In theory, this would help minimize the biases among Canadian employers that immigrants are not suitable for/employable at their organizations, hopefully improving employment prospects for all immigrants to Canada.

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