Vancouver is ripe with engineers and doctors driving cabs or dishing out pizza to kids at night.
Foreign professionals find themselves in these positions because many Canadian employers do not recognize their international degrees.
“A lot of people have used up all of their courage [just] to get here,” says Marilyn Murray, career counselor at the YWCA.
“They are scared to go out and [network] because it is not part of their culture to get out and meet people. If they don’t get out there it becomes horrendous.”
The lack of networking abilities is but one of the biggest obstacles in terms of foreign experience recognized in Canada. Another is that newcomers earn points in order to make their way to Canada. And some points are earned based on their education and experience.
“People are…making the assumption [that] their education and experience contributed to their entry into Canada, [and] therefore they are going to be able to move into that profession,” says Dr. Roberta Neault, President of Life Strategies Ltd.
“I think that that’s where the disconnect happens and I don’t think that it’s deliberately misleading nor that there is an easy way to change that interpretation.”
In Canada foreign credential recognition happens at all levels of government and the process can take from three to six months, and if a new comer has more education, all that means is that the path to becoming accredited takes that much longer due to the lower levels of employment for those with higher degrees.
An email from Human Resources Skills and Development explains that they are shortening the amount of time it takes for newcomers to have their credentials recognized so that newcomers can apply their skills and experience.
“I think it’s wonderful that the government is fast tracking some professions,” says Dr. Neault, “…in general in Canada and in other countries things move very slow … [and]… even when something is announced it doesn’t mean that it’s working seamlessly or it’s going to be in place within the short term.”
Any immigrant or Canadian born person who holds an international degree and is looking to put it to work in Canada can face numerous barriers. Foreign credential recognition is just one of them. But with the right tools anyone can break through the bureaucratic tape and find success.
“I would encourage [them] to meet a lot of people and do that so called networking [thing],” says Iris Sun, a Masters and PhD graduate from Southern China, now a full time researcher
“The only thing that I would not suggest for them to do is to go back to school, it wastes time and money.”
But Iris thinks her MA and PhD degrees helped her land her research position and motivates her to do her job well in order to meet the expectations of her partners and supervisors.
Dr. Neault agrees that the onus of responsibility lies with both job seekers and employers.
“You can only do so much work with the individual if the work place isn’t ready to embrace them,” says Dr. Neault.
“There’s just limits, it doesn’t matter what your level of education and experience. The senior management, the VPs get it. It is the actual hiring manager or… colleagues that really just don’t have an understanding of what skill set people are bringing with them. ”
Murray says that 75% of jobs won’t be found on job boards and that many people are able to find permanent jobs by taking on contract work or just getting out there and networking.
“They need to start connecting in the community, join social groups through meetup.com,” says Murray, “but most importantly do not give up, don’t be afraid to take a lower end job in your field, make connections, [and] surround yourself with positive people rather than