Moving to a new country in search of better opportunities can be a daunting task for anyone. Tanya Raizada, a 34-year-old Indian professional, experienced firsthand the challenges that many newcomers face when trying to find employment in Canada. Despite her impressive resume and over a decade of work experience, Raizada found herself struggling to secure a job in her field after immigrating to Toronto as a permanent resident.
Raizada’s story is not unique. Many immigrants who come to Canada hoping to build a better life find themselves facing a skills mismatch that hinders their chances of finding employment. According to experts, this mismatch occurs when employers undervalue foreign education and international work experience, leading to biases and assumptions about language skills.
Nita Chhinzer, a human resources management expert at the University of Guelph, explains that this discourages immigrants from feeling that their skills are valued. Sherri Rabinovitch, an HR expert in Montreal, agrees and adds that it is unfair to devalue candidates simply because they lack “Canadian experience.” Experience, she argues, is experience, regardless of where it was gained.
With immigration accounting for 90 percent of Canada’s labor force growth and 75 percent of population growth, the federal government has recognized the need to boost immigration to fill critical labor gaps and offset the country’s aging workforce. The government’s 2023-25 immigration plan aims to welcome 1.45 million new immigrants over the next three years, with a focus on skilled workers in key sectors such as health, skilled trades, manufacturing, and technology.
While this plan has been welcomed by industry experts, they argue that a more strategic and skills-based approach is needed to better integrate newcomers into the Canadian job market. Sean Strickland, executive director of Canada’s Building Trades Union, advocates for targeted approaches based on the needs of different provinces and trades. This would ensure that immigrants are matched with the right skills and opportunities.
The manufacturing sector, for example, is in need of workers across a range of skills, including general labor, engineering, maintenance, repair, automation, and robotics. Dennis Darby, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, highlights that there are approximately 80,000 vacancies in this sector, mostly in Ontario and Quebec. Increasing the influx of immigrants with the necessary skills will be crucial in filling these jobs.
Canada’s health-care system is also facing staffing shortages, long wait times in emergency rooms, and surgical backlogs. While recruiting internationally educated health professionals can help address these challenges, Dr. Alika Lafontaine, president of the Canadian Medical Association, emphasizes the importance of retaining the existing workforce and increasing capacity for training new health workers within Canada.
In the technology sector, there is a demand for not only IT professionals but also senior leadership and management positions. Benjamin Bergen, president of the Council of Canadian Innovators, argues that highly skilled workers with unique skill sets are often needed to fill these positions. Immigration programs that focus on specific individuals with specialized skills can help bridge these gaps and contribute to the growth of Canadian companies.
Despite the challenges she has faced, Tanya Raizada remains hopeful and determined to find a job in Canada. Currently unemployed and living in Chandigarh, India, she continues to apply for jobs in Canada with the hope of returning next year. Raizada believes that more opportunities for immigrants in senior-level positions and free training programs would greatly benefit newcomers like herself.
The issue of skills mismatch among newcomers in Canada is a complex one that requires a multi-faceted approach. By recognizing and valuing the skills and experiences that immigrants bring, providing targeted support and training programs, and fostering a more inclusive job market, Canada can fully harness the potential of its diverse immigrant population and create a thriving economy for all.