Monday, July 23, 2012

Canadian experience and qualifications

I met a fellow immigrant, let's call her JL, over brunch with a social group yesterday.

JL migrated from France about 2 years ago. She has worked as a Technical Marketing Manager in Metro Vancouver but has lost her job recently due to company restructuring. JL has several degrees (including an MBA) from European universities and lots of transferable skills. She has worked for MNCs and when she was based in Europe, she used to travel frequently to Asia for work. She speaks 3 languages fluently* (English, French and German).
*Note: By "fluently", I mean at almost native-speaker standard. I am not using the "discounted expectations" that Vancouverites often have when they complement foreigners (especially visible minority) as "fluent English speakers". This is the thing that PRCs in Metro Vancouver often do not understand. They are told by the ever-so-polite Canadians that their English is "good/excellent", even when they cannot understand the Canadian accent spoken at normal pace and vice versa (i.e. the Canadians have a tough time with the PRCs' Chinese/Mandarin-accented English). Thus, PRC immigrants have a tendency to complain of racism when they do not get a job, instead of recognizing a deficiency in their English language ability (especially spoken English). From my observation, the same is true of some Filipino immigrants who take pride in their "excellent" (but in reality, heavily Filipino-accented) English.
Over lunch, JL shared her frustration over the lack of progress in her job search. She has not had any success in finding an equivalent position as her previous job. Despite having many "informational interviews" with potential recruiters and having worked for a firm in Metro Vancouver, she is still advised (by the recruiters and others in-touch with the Canadian job-market) of the need for her to gain more "Canadian experience" and "Canadian qualifications". As JL puts it, when she looked at the course content of the short courses that some advised her to take, she felt that she knew enough and had enough related work experience to be the instructor at those courses. So JL felt that she was up against a wall -- one that prized Canadian experience and qualifications, and did not value the non-Canadian equivalent.
IMHO, PRCs who complain about racism in their Canadian job search should talk to people like JL. JL is a French/German Caucasian -- as "white" as they come. Yet she faces the same issues in her job search as the PRC immigrants. However, from my observations, many (although not all) PRC immigrants tend to cluster amongst their own kind and reinforce each other's perceived experience of "anti-Chinese" racism. Some of them even tried to convince me of this "anti-Chinese" racism, but I usually don't pay heed to their ill-informed conclusions. Note: JL is not the only Caucasian whom I've met who faced such job search issues.
I shared with JL that her experience was not unique. I offered to link her up with some friends (and I did), but frankly I don't know how much luck JL would have with her job search, ceteris paribus (i.e. keeping everything else the same). The norm here is indeed "the Canadian way, or the highway".

My point here is that "Skilled Worker" immigrants to Canada should be aware of this Canadian norm. Of course, not everyone would face such problems -- some lucky folks did land on professional jobs equivalent to their previous professions quite quickly. However, I have heard/met enough immigrants who aren't so lucky to know that it is something that a potential immigrant should consider in his/her S.W.O.T. analysis before coming to Canada.


If you should find yourself in JL's position -- being an immigrant in Metro Vancouver, Canada, or having lost a job due to no fault of your own -- here are some links that might be of use to you.

If you lost your job due to company restructuring or other valid reasons, you're probably eligible to claim EI benefits. It is important to apply ASAP (as soon as possible), and not wait until you need the money. I have a friend who had some difficulty with the paperwork because she had delayed her application for EI benefits. Fortunately, she settled it and received her EI benefits in the end. The Canadian Bar Association (B.C.) website gives a good overview with links to Services Canada for the actual details.

The federal government funds this program to provide career counselling and some funds to new immigrants to obtain Canadian jobs equivalent to their previous profession. There are various groups that handle this. I applied through MOSAIC at Grant Street (along Commercial Drive), Vancouver. My case is now closed since I have spent the entire budget on nursing related courses. The amount is not much ($1,500 or $2,300 depending on one's previous industry), but some "free money" is still good. In addition, one can get one's English assessed for free through them, so that one can have a Canadian paper showing one's fluency in Canadian English. Note: Those born-and-educated in Singapore are viewed as fluent in English and therefore not required to undergo the Canadian English assessment.

The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. B.C. Richmond office runs this project, which is funded by the government (I am not sure if it is funded at the federal or provincial level). The idea is to provide financial support to Internationally Trained Professionals as they go about getting employment in their field in Canada. One can obtain a low-interest rate loan ranging from $500 to $15,000 for training, exams, qualification accreditation/assessments, joining professional associations, books or study materials, and living allowance. Note: IMHO, applicants should exercise financial self-discipline with the loan granted. I am aware of someone who utilized the loan granted to him for unrelated purposes and then finding himself back in a "financially broke" situation.,com_mtree/task,viewlink/link_id,1222/

BCIT International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES)
Quote from their website: "ICES evaluates formal for-credit educational programs of study for people who have studied in other provinces or countries and determines comparable levels in British Columbian and Canadian terms. The results of an ICES assessment are provided in evaluation reports that are objective, consistent, and reliable."
Note: Fees are applicable for the above service. The fee charged depends on the evaluation needed to be done.

[Addendum on 27-Jul-2012: A friend mentioned this program to me.]
YWCA Metro Vancouver Mentorship Program for Women
You do not have to be a Christian to join the program. In fact, both the YMCA and YWCA in Metro Vancouver are social organizations, not religious ones. Quote from the YWCA website: "This free mentoring program for women in Vancouver connects professional female mentors with unemployed women aged 19 and over who are entering or re-entering professional or skilled careers. Mentees come from a variety of backgrounds. They are women who are starting their careers, returning to the workforce or newly entering the Canadian job market."

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