Overcoming the Canadian Experience Barrier: For Employers and Newcomers
The Canadian job market has been grappling with the issue of Canadian experience requirements for decades, as newcomers look for ways to join the workforce without prior experience in the country. Despite efforts by the Canadian government to welcome skilled immigrants and address labor shortages, many employers still ask for Canadian experience, at times hampering newcomers from obtaining meaningful employment.
The Canadian experience requirement is an issue that dates back to as early as 1978 when a letter sent by a newcomer to Canada was printed in the Globe & Mail: “I have applied for and called in response to many job advertisements, but I am confronted with only one question, ‘What is your Canadian experience?’ I wish someone would be kind enough to tell me what this Canadian experience is, and how I get it without being given the chance.” This issue of Canadian experience requirements continues to be a challenge for many newcomers to this day.
In response to the growing labor shortages, the Canadian government has been ramping up its efforts by planning to invite 1.5 million immigrants into the country over the next 3 years. In fact, Canada’s emphasis on economic immigration is unique to the western world, with half of its permanent residents being welcomed into the country based on their skills, not family reunification. However, many newcomers are still being overlooked by employers who require Canadian experience, even for entry-level positions.
Ontario is the first province to have made a significant step forward in recognizing the value of international experience and qualifications, having instated legislation that prohibits employers from requesting Canadian experience unless it’s a legitimate job requirement. Although it’s unclear whether other provinces will adopt a similar approach in the future, it’s important for Canadian employers to recognize the immense potential and benefits of hiring skilled foreign workers.
Why Canadian Employers Should Be Utilizing Immigrant Workers
In Canada’s diverse and rapidly changing workforce, there are many highly skilled and talented newcomers who could be valuable additions to any organization. Here are some reasons why Canadian employers should be leveraging the potential of immigrant workers.
Access to a breadth of experience and a broader pool of talent
Skilled immigrants bring a wealth of experience, education, and diverse cultural perspectives to Canadian workplaces. Many of them hold advanced degrees and have experience working in a variety of different countries and industries. Studies have shown that companies with diverse workforces are more innovative, creative and productive, helping Canadian businesses remain competitive in the global marketplace.
Fill skills gaps
Canada has a rapidly aging population, which means that there will be an increasing demand for skilled workers in the coming years. Many immigrants come to Canada with expertise in fields that are currently experiencing skill shortages, such as engineering, IT, and healthcare. By hiring immigrants, Canadian employers can fill these gaps and ensure that their business has the talent it needs to thrive.
Improve corporate reputation
Respect for diversity is a strong cultural value in Canada and the employers that embrace diversity and inclusion are perceived as more socially responsible, earning them an enhanced corporate image. This also includes recognition through various diversity awards.
Access to government incentives and programs
The Canadian government offers various incentives for employers who hire immigrants, such as wage subsidies and tax credits. They also offer programs that provide support with everything from language training to cultural awareness and can help businesses effectively integrate their new employees into the workplace. By taking advantage of these programs, Canadian employers can save money while also gaining access to larger talent pools.
Embracing immigrants as valuable contributors to Canadian workplaces is a win-win situation for all and is not only the right thing to do but also smart business!
How Newcomers Can Gain Canadian Experience
It’s important to remember that ‘Canadian experience’ is more than simply work experience. It also encompasses a general understanding and experience with Canadian culture. So, if you’re a newcomer to Canada who is looking to gain a foothold in your field, then try out these 4 tips to help build your Canadian experience.
While earning money will be a top priority for many people settling into a new country, if it’s viable then volunteering is a great way to gain Canadian experience while also contributing to your community. Look for opportunities in your field of interest and start making connections with people.
Networking is crucial in Canada, and it’s important to start building your network as soon as possible. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and connect with other professionals on LinkedIn. Once you have made these connections you could do informational interviews to gain valuable inside knowledge of your field.
Depending on your field, there may be specific certifications or licenses required in Canada. Look into what you need to do to become certified or licensed in your field and take the necessary steps to obtain these credentials. This may involve having existing certifications transferred from your home country. These credentials will make you more attractive to employers.
Internships, co-op programs or courses
Many industries in Canada offer internships or co-op programs for students or newcomers which will give you hands-on experience. You can also check out local colleges or universities for courses to help you gain Canadian-specific knowledge while also showing potential employers that you are committed to your career and are willing to learn.
While the above steps don’t guarantee employment, they should help equip you with some necessary resources and experience to accelerate your job search.
Despite the Canadian experience requirement posing a challenge for many newcomers, the number of skilled immigrants hired by Canadian employers has been on the rise since 2015 and continues to grow. However, birth rates are declining, and it’s projected that by 2035, the population growth of Canada will be solely due to immigration. This makes it even more compelling for Canadian employers to appreciate the incredible value of the immigrant talent pool.
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