Skilled immigrant women already faced obstacles finding employment. The pandemic made it worse

Of note. Law may be one of the harder regulated professions for internationally-trained professionals, both men and women:

Tolu Adeyemi had been working as a corporate and commercial lawyer in her hometown of Lagos, Nigeria for four years when she immigrated to Calgary in late 2019.

Her sister and brother already lived in Canada and she knew there would be a transition period to get her law qualifications recognized in Alberta. While waiting for her transcript to be sent from Nigeria and for the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) to evaluate her qualifications, Ms. Adeyemi found work in sales at a beauty supply store to tide her over. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She was laid off in June 2020 and picked up work as a delivery driver with Amazon and SkipTheDishes.

At the beginning of 2021, Ms. Adeyemi caught COVID-19 and reached a low point.

“It sort of made me reevaluate,” she says. “My father was like, ‘This is not what you came to Canada to do, to work different survival jobs.’”

By this point, the NCA determined that Ms. Adeyemi would need to complete five examinations and a year of articling to qualify to become a lawyer in Alberta. She has written three of the five exams and plans to finish the last two by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, she has been applying to legal assistant jobs, over a hundred by her estimate, to no avail.

“People usually say it’s because I don’t have Canadian experience, or they would say something about [not] being the right fit,” Ms. Adeyemi says.

She also participated in a three-month career services program for foreign-trained professionals at the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA) to learn digital skills, cross-cultural communication and career counselling, followed by a three-month practicum at an employment and business law firm in Calgary.

“We had IT professionals, HR professionals, accountants from different countries,” says Ms. Adeyemi of her fellow program participants. “Even if they had 10 years of experience, they had serious trouble breaking into the job market.”

‘Gendered effect’ of the pandemic

Despite halting immigration last year due to COVID-19, the Liberal government is on track to meet its goal of bringing in 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021. But skilled immigrant women continue to face increased barriers in finding employment, and the pandemic has only made it more difficult.

Luciara Nardon, a professor of international business at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business in Ottawa, published a paper in June 2021 showing how skilled immigrant women had their career trajectories delayed, interrupted or reversed during the pandemic. These roadblocks were due to layoffs, fewer job opportunities and increased domestic burden during lockdowns.

“The pandemic was particularly difficult for women in general because kids [were] at home,” Dr. Nardon says. “It’s a very gendered effect that way.”

Jenny Krabbe, manager of the employment services department at CIWA, has seen married immigrant women having to set aside their own goals to prioritize their spouse’s career, even prior to the pandemic.

“In many cases, the male [in the relationship] has the better education in the country they came from and the reason they could get into Canada under our point system was that he qualified,” Ms. Krabbe says. “She may be a professional in her own right, but now she has to figure out her way forward.”

Confidence is another factor that Ms. Krabbe says hinders skilled immigrant women in their career progression in Canada. Training in career services programs, like the one that Ms. Adeyemi participated in at CIWA, can help build that confidence, she says.

Networking helps build confidence too, and is what leads most skilled immigrant women to find meaningful work in their fields, notes Dr. Nardon. But the pandemic has limited these opportunities.

“If you already know somebody, you can meet on Zoom instead of meeting in person,” she says. “But if you don’t know them, that becomes very difficult.”

A necessary culture change

Support programs like those at CIWA provide a great opportunity for immigrant women to network, says Dr. Nardon, but she hopes to see more government initiatives to support the employment journeys of skilled immigrant women. In particular, she highlights the need for programs with longer, more flexible eligibility terms.

“Sometimes women take a longer time to integrate because the men’s career will have priority and the women stay home taking care of the kids,” she says. “By the time the woman is ready to enter the workforce, then services are no longer available because they lost eligibility.” Childcare support can also help relieve some of the domestic burdens that immigrant women face, allowing them to spend more time building their careers.

But the onus isn’t solely on the government. Dr. Nardon also calls for a “culture change” in societal attitudes towards immigrant women, especially from employers and hiring managers.

“There may be assumptions that [immigrant women] didn’t get the right experience or the right training, so they are not as capable as somebody else,” she says. As employers head into the “great resignation,” (Statistics Canada reported 731,900 job vacancies in the second quarter of 2021, which is nearly 26 per cent more vacancies than in the same quarter two years earlier), Dr. Nardon encourages companies to consider how skilled immigrant women can benefit their businesses, as opposed to searching for candidates to fulfil a particular set of needs.

“Look at the talent that immigrants bring and have a more open mind instead of trying to fit them into boxes,” she says. “Some employers are thinking of different ways of recruiting. They’re not picking specific characteristics, but instead they’re saying, ‘We need talent.’ They’re creating jobs around the talent that is available.”

Dr. Nardon adds that all Canadians can play a part by making connections among skilled immigrants in their communities or industries.

“Professionals can give time for mentoring, for sharing knowledge and sharing networks,” Ms. Nardon explains. “This is not one person’s job. The whole society has to work together.”


These ‘first of their kind’ Ontario changes could get more skilled immigrants working in their actual fields of expertise

Good initiative that may break some of the logjam. Will see over time the impact. More significant that Premier Ford’s unfortunate remarks on immigrants and the political and activist pile-on:

The Ontario government is unveiling a new plan to help get immigrants working in the fields where they have expertise.

Legislative changes to be introduced Thursday would force some professional regulators to drop Canadian work-experience requirements from their licensing criteria — and to speed up processing times.

If passed, the changes would address what newcomers often cite as two key barriers to acquiring their professional designations in Ontario.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, whose ministry also oversees training, skills development and immigration, called the changes “unprecedented and the first of their kind in Canada.”

“They’re just long overdue,” McNaughton said. “My goal is to ensure that we’re creating a clear path for new Canadians to fully apply their skills and remove barriers so immigrants can find meaningful work.”

The proposed amendments to the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act would cover 37 non-health-related professions and trades.

The affected fields would range from architecture to teaching, social work, plumbing, electricians’ work, auto-body repair and hairstyling.

The changes, if passed, would give the minister and the fairness commissioner the powers to order financial penalties for regulators found to have breached the law. 

At present, licensing time in some professions takes as long as 18 months, and both the ministry and the fairness commissioner’s office will gather baseline data to inform and establish reasonable timelines in consultation with oversight ministries, regulators and communities.

For decades, many immigrants who were selected for their education achievements and work experience have complained about being unemployed or underemployed because their foreign credentials are devalued in Canada.

Those who have training and background in a regulated profession also complain they lack the coveted Canadian experience to meet licensing requirements and that the process is too lengthy and costly.

When asked about the timing of this announcement, following another earlier this week to regulate temporary worker agencies and recruiters, McNaughton denied it was part of a Conservative strategy to galvanize immigrant votes in next year’s provincial election.

“The pro-worker reforms we’re unveiling … it’s all about rebalancing the scales. Coming out of this pandemic, the scales were tilted toward a lot of big corporations that make billions of dollars run by billionaires,” he said.

“We are on the side of workers and just ensuring that they’re getting better paychecks and better protections.”

Premier Doug Ford has been at the centre of controversy since Monday, when he said Ontario is desperate for people to move here — as long as they want to work.

“You come here like every other new Canadian has come here, you work your tail off,” he said. “If you think you’re coming to collect the dole and sit around? Not going to happen, go somewhere else.”

The comments have drawn fire from many who say the premier was playing to racist stereotypes about new Canadians.

According to McNaughton, currently only 25 per cent of all immigrants are actually employed in their field of study, while 293,000 jobs are waiting to be filled in the province, which could see its GDP increase by $20 billion, if the skill gap is addressed.

“That’s unacceptable,” he told the Star in an interview Wednesday. “It’s important that we ensure that everyone’s talent is being used and we unleash their talent to its full capacity.”

The proposed changes to eliminate the Canadian experience licensing requirement do have exemption provisions if regulators can demonstrate that it is necessary for public health and safety. The expectation, however, would be that they find alternative methods to minimize barriers. The Ontario fairness commissioner’s office would review exemption requests and make recommendations to the minister, who would have the final say.

The government also plans to align and streamline language-testing requirements for immigration and licensing purposes, for instance, by asking regulators to accept the same tests as proof of language proficiency or embed it as part of their respective technical exams.

“We’re eliminating the unfair Canadian work experience requirements, reducing burdens including duplicative language training and ensuring that licensing applications are processed faster,” McNaughton said.

“Last year alone, about 17,500 internationally trained individuals applied to receive their licence to practise from our regulator. We want to increase that number in a big, big way.”

The expectation is for the Canadian work experience requirement to be struck down within two years.

The changes could potentially extend to the regulated health sector in the future, which is far more complex due to health and safety concerns.

“We continue to work with health (authorities). That is a priority for me,” McNaughton noted. “But this is going to apply across the board apart from health, at least at this point.”


Atlantic Immigrant Career Loan Fund aims to help newcomers get Canadian credentials

Worthwhile initiative:

When Dr. Michael Fatokun moved to Atlantic Canada from Nigeria in 2018, he wished to give his family a better life and continue practising medicine. A new program is set to make that process a little easier.

The Atlantic Immigrant Career Loan Fund (AICLF) is supposed to help up to 200 newcomers like Fatokun pay for the credential recognition process.

“Even if you have come with some funds, you still need (a) substantial amount of funds to take exams,” said Fatokun.

Through the fund, newcomers are able to borrow up to $15,000 over four years in professions not eligible for student loan funding. Loans are also available for permanent residents or Canadian citizens to cover the costs of training, testing, licensing and living costs.

AICLF is delivered in partnership with the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, MAGMA in Moncton and the Saint John YMCA. The New Brunswick Multicultural Council will cover all rural areas.

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council is also commencing a provincial survey to determine how many newcomers in the province have training and experience as nurses or personal support workers. This data will be used to improve training and employment programs.

“We recently launched a survey to identify how many immigrants in the province were interested in that field, and over 150 respondents have come forward in the last week,” said Alex LeBlanc, executive director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council.

The regional approach to providing credential recognition started with medical professionals, engineers and accountants and will now expand to include project management and trades.

Between 2018 and 2027, the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour estimates a total of 8,223 openings in nursing- and personal support worker-related positions. At the same time, the province will welcome hundreds of newcomers with training and experience in these exact fields.

Fatokun is awaiting his exam results and hopes to be practising medicine again by early 2020.

Source: Atlantic Immigrant Career Loan Fund aims to help newcomers get Canadian credentials

Fonction publique: des ingénieurs de l’État issus de l’immigration se disent victimes de discrimination

The ongoing challenge of foreign credential recognition and related barriers:

Le gouvernement Couillard refuse depuis deux ans que des ingénieurs de l’État issus de l’immigration soient payés en fonction de l’expérience qu’ils ont acquise dans leur pays d’origine. Une « hypocrisie », selon leur syndicat, alors que Québec veut faciliter l’intégration des immigrants au marché du travail.

Le 28 août 2015, 23 ingénieurs du gouvernement formés à l’étranger ont écrit au ministre des Transports de l’époque, Robert Poëti, pour demander une révision des politiques de classement du Ministère.

Ils soutiennent que leur expérience à l’étranger n’a pas été considérée par le ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ) au moment de leur embauche. Ils ont donc été classés dans des échelons salariaux qui ne reflètent pas le nombre d’années de pratique.


Ces professionnels ont pourtant réussi tous les tests imposés par l’Ordre des ingénieurs (OIQ) et obtenu leur droit de pratiquer au Québec.

« Nous trouvons que cette situation est inéquitable et ne tient pas compte de l’analyse rigoureuse de nos dossiers qu’a faite l’OIQ et les expériences reconnues par ce dernier pour nous attribuer des permis d’ingénieurs », peut-on lire dans la lettre.

« De plus, elle va à l’encontre des articles 16 et 19 de la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne du Québec », ajoutent les plaignants.

Dans une réponse écrite envoyée en février 2016, la directrice des ressources humaines du MTQ, Brigitte Duchesne, se montre sensible à la situation de ces employés. Elle soutient avoir adressé une « demande formelle » au secrétariat du Conseil du trésor, « de façon à soutenir une éventuelle reconnaissance de [leurs] expériences en génie acquises hors Canada ».


Or, un an plus tard, rien n’a bougé, dénonce le président de l’Association professionnelle des ingénieurs du gouvernement (APIGQ), Marc-André Martin.

« Le gouvernement se paye du “cheap labour”, dénonce-t-il. Il est au courant de la situation et il ne fait rien. »

Il cite en exemple le cas d’un ingénieur qui a travaillé pendant cinq ans en Roumanie avant d’immigrer au Québec. Lors de son embauche au ministère des Transports, il a été rémunéré au plus bas échelon salarial, car il venait tout juste d’obtenir son permis de pratique de l’Ordre des ingénieurs. S’il était rémunéré à la hauteur de sa véritable expérience, il gagnerait environ 10 000 $ de plus par année, dit M. Martin.

Source: Fonction publique: des ingénieurs de l’État issus de l’immigration se disent victimes de discrimination | Martin Croteau | Politique québécoise

Tories want to cut red tape for skilled immigrants. What else is new? –

An overview of where the Conservative leadership candidates stand on foreign credential recognition – no much new for a perennial issue.

The evaluation of IRCC’s efforts under the Conservatives, which were largely information, path-finding and referral services, does not indicate a strong correlation with improved outcomes for foreign-trained professions (Evaluation of the Foreign Credentials Referral Office (FCRO)):

A large part of Justin Trudeau’s campaign focused on reforming the Conservatives’ policies, but that’s not the case when it comes to skilled immigrants. Erin Tolley, a political science researcher at the University of Toronto who focuses on diversity in Canada, said the Liberals have been largely silent on the issue. Their platform didn’t include promises on immigrant skill utilization, and all they’ve done is tweak economic immigration policy. Tolley says it’s Conservative governments that are most active on skilled immigration reform because they see it as an economic issue.

That’s why when Conservative leadership hopefuls nearly unanimously said Canada needs more skilled immigrants, I had to know where they stood on reaccreditation. The campaigns of Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier, and Lisa Raitt did not make their candidates available for an interview, but nine other candidates agree that the federal government has a role to play in tackling the problem.

Nearly every candidate I spoke with said Canada needs to sharpen its focus on economic immigration. Former immigration minister Chris Alexander wants 70 per cent of Canada’s immigrants to be selected on the basis of skills, education, and language, rather than family reunification. Under the Harper government, that number hovered in the mid-60 percentiles, while the Liberals lowered 2016 targets to the mid-50s. Alexander’s message is clear: whether they come in as a response to our needs or in a steady stream, skilled immigrants help prop up the economy.

…But during the first debate, none of the candidates addressed how we will make sure those skills are part of the job market. Alexander and Steven Blaney said they would build on Jason Kenney’s work as immigration minister if they came to power. That means providing incentives to businesses, including tax breaks and the ability to let them tell the government what kind of skills they’re looking for, and having discussions with professional associations that often help immigrants gain their credentials. The associations could play a role in both educating new immigrants about how to get accredited and loosening standards for newcomers.

….Finances are one of the barriers for new immigrants, according to the U of T study. Others are a lack of job experience, language barriers, and even “lack of knowledge of Canadian professional ‘lingo.’”

To fill many of the gaps, Erin O’Toole said, Canada relies on migrant workers. Part of the reason is immigrants can’t use their degrees. For O’Toole, there are two steps to a solution. The first is to start a process of recognizing credentials sooner, concurrent with the application, and the second is working with provinces to streamline cross-provincial recognition.

The majority of candidates who spoke to Maclean’sechoed O’Toole’s ideas. Michael Chong added that Canada needs to be “giving immigrants a clear-eyed view of what the credentials are worth in Canada so they know what they will need to transition.” Andrew Scheer said, “If the work was done on the front-end and we were able to bring provinces together, in a lot of cases you wouldn’t need to qualify and re-certify.”

It’s possible they are right, but policy takes a long time to implement—and it takes even longer to figure out whether or not it works. Tolley also says there are barriers governments can’t tackle outside of raising awareness. For example, research shows foreign-sounding names are discriminated against by employers, and there is no policy that helps immigrants retroactively.

Source: Tories want to cut red tape for skilled immigrants. What else is new? –

Skilled immigrants wasting their talents in Canada

Ongoing issue with degrees of complexity that take time and effort to address. Their children, of course, will not face the same disadvantage as the chart below indicates, given born and educated in Canada:

“There’s a joke in Toronto that the best place to have a heart attack is in a cab because there’ll be a doctor driving that cab,” said Margaret Eaton, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

In reality, fewer than one per cent of immigrant doctors drove taxis, according to the 2011 National Household Survey. 

But almost half never get to practice medicine in Canada. 

Instead, they wind up as nurses, sonographers and care aides, among other related fields that don’t use their full skill set, even though they may have years of experience abroad.

This is a common experience for skilled immigrants.

Academic studies show that those who do find work in their field often end up working below their level of qualifications.

In Ontario, many foreign-born and educated engineers have ended up becoming IT managers, janitors and truck drivers, 2011 data shows. Top jobs for foreign-born and educated accountants outside of their field include bookkeeping, serving food and working as cashiers.


Part of the problem can be chalked up to the fact that, in recent years, immigrants have been more likely to come from countries like India, China and the Philippines, where the education system is different from the European countries, where immigrants flowed from in decades past. 

In many cases, they may also have a lower level of English skills. 

The cost of this mismatch is significant. 

In 2015, the Conference Board of Canada estimated that if Canadian employers and professional regulatory bodies did a better job of recognizing immigrants’ skills, they would earn an additional $10 billion to $12.7 billion annually and would pay more tax. 

Added to that is the huge emotional toll on these newcomers, especially when they wind up working survival jobs in cleaning, fast-food restaurants and retail, said Naghmeh Rezvani, a career practitioner at the Centre for Newcomers in Calgary.

 In January 2015, the Conservative government introduced a new system for selecting skilled immigrants called Express Entry that tries to tie permanent residency to the economy.

Those with a job offer backed by a labour market impact assessment, which proves they were selected because no Canadians were available for work, receive bonus points that help them get permanent residency more quickly.

Last year, cooks, food service supervisors and retail store supervisors were among the top 10 invited occupations because they had such jobs in hand. They made up almost one out of every five immigrants selected.

This outcome has critics concerned. They say immigrants employers hire are not necessarily the same as those who will boost Canada’s economy in the long run.

“All it is is their first job,” said David Cohen, a Montreal immigration lawyer. “A lot of candidates with excellent human capital are being squeezed out.”

The federal government is looking at doing away with the labour market assessment requirement but plans to increase the role of Express Entry in the future.

Having a job offer on arrival does have benefits. Immigrants who come without one struggle to find work because they lack Canadian experience, soft skills and social networks that would help them break into their field.

The Canadian labour market is “very parochial,” said Kelly Thomson, a  York University professor who studies foreign professionals.

“We have a tendency to compare them to Canadians and say, ‘Oh, they don’t speak as good English,’ instead of thinking, ‘Oh, they speak multiple languages. How is that an advantage for my business?’ or ‘They have a large international network.’”

Those in regulated professions face the biggest struggle. According to staff at the Centre for Newcomers in Calgary, it can take immigrants in many professions at least three years to transfer their qualifications, if they succeed at all. 

Source: Skilled immigrants wasting their talents in Canada | Calgary Herald

Helping immigrant nurses a ‘win-win’ for Canada: Study

An example where more effective foreign credential recognition and related bridging programs can help:

As baby boomers age, Canada faces a looming health-care crunch that will be exacerbated by a projected shortage of tens of thousands of nurses.

That makes it more important than ever for Canada to help foreign-trained nurses qualify to practice here, according to a Conference Board of Canada study.

Each dollar invested by Ottawa and provincial governments in helping registered nurses acquire Canadian licences generates $9 in future income tax revenue — a nine-fold return, according to the study — not to mention their contributions to the care of the country’s rapidly aging population.

With seniors outnumbering children for the first time ever, according to new Statistics Canada figures, and a projected shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2022, investing in bridging programs makes immense sense, experts say.

“This is a win-win for Canada and the internationally educated nurses (IEN),” said Michael Bloom, the conference board’s vice-president in charge of industry and business strategy. “The concept of investing in career bridging programs is good and sound. It yields returns.”

According to the study, more than half of immigrants with health professional backgrounds have trouble getting their foreign credentials recognized in Canada, compared to just 40 per cent in other regulated professions.

In 2011, only 54 per cent of foreign-born and educated nurses had a job that matched their education in Ontario, with unemployment rates among foreign-trained registered nurses at 6 per cent and 8.3 per cent among registered practical nurses.

Source: Helping immigrant nurses a ‘win-win’ for Canada: Study | Toronto Star

Stephen Harper to pledge funds to help new Canadians find work in their field

Relatively few citizenship and immigration related announcements so far in the campaign. This recycled and possible expanded one from the Conservatives:

CBC News has learned that Harper will visit a Markham, Ont., manufacturing plant, where he will announce new money for the Foreign Credential Recognition Loan program.

The federal government introduced the program in 2011 as a pilot project. It was made permanent just this year, when the budget put aside $35 million for it over five years. Today’s announcement is expected to add even more money to the program.

According to the government, 36 per cent of new Canadians face financial barriers in getting their foreign credentials recognized. The costs range from $100 to $25,000, and can include paying for retraining or recertification exams.

Professionals affected range from physicians to those who work in the Red Seal trades, which include dozens of professions that have a set of nationally recognized standards, such as electricians, engineers and plumbers.

Source: Stephen Harper to pledge funds to help new Canadians find work in their field – Politics – CBC News

Immigrant nurses face new hurdles with Ontario’s licensing changes

Another example of foreign credential recognition challenges. Given that the certification  is test scenario-based, expect that the main challenge is not technical but contextual and related to how one interacts with patients and colleagues.

But the lack of appropriate training and feedback should be addressed:

The report, released this summer, found that “some internationally educated applicants do not receive adequate explanation about their shortcomings on the OSCE.” And since there are no appeals or repeat tests allowed, “it leaves applicants with no option but to proceed to bridging education if they wish to continue with their RN application,” the report says.

“It is unclear why, regardless of the number of gaps identified in the OSCE, applicants who want to proceed with their RN application must take an entire bridging program. There is no sound justification for the ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

The college said it brought in the OSCE test for foreign RN applicants because it is an objective tool to evaluate competencies.“

It is not an ‘exam’ in the usual sense of the world. It is a holistic assessment of the applicant’s knowledge and experience. . . . They come out of it with a better understanding of which missing competencies they need to address,” said Clarke.

“It’s like getting a second opinion about how well an applicant’s education and experience match the competencies required of a nurse in Ontario.”

Immigrant nurses face new hurdles with Ontario’s licensing changes | Toronto Star.

Skilled immigrants face hurdles in finding jobs, government report says

More on foreign credential recognition and some of the barriers, some legitimate (i.e., Chinese legal training and experience does not prepare one to practice in Canada), others, such as Canadian experience, are more of a grey area.

The challenge of learning the culture and language of general social interactions likely takes some time:

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.

Skilled immigrants face hurdles in finding jobs, government report says – Politics – CBC News.