BY ASHTON COLLEGE
The immigrant experience of countless newcomers to Canada is full of unique tales of overcoming hardship, fighting against discrimination and struggling to make ends meet in a new culture and sometimes strange environment. A lesser publicized experience however and one that is shared by so many, is the difficulties had in transferring professional certifications from one country to another. Because the fact is, many new Canadian immigrants with professional backgrounds find themselves unable to work in their chosen professions simply because their qualifications and certifications aren’t eligible here.
“Everyone loves Canada, it’s a focal point for immigration” says Jerrold Johnson, Chief Representative Officer at Jamaica National, a Toronto banking institution that brings ‘a little piece of the island’ to Canadians. “People come here because the want to build a future for their children. But quite often this is much tougher than it needs to be because of the way the Canadian system is structured.”
The numbers don’t lie. Unemployment is on the rise among Canada’s most educated immigrants. Currently, there are three times as many unemployed university educated immigrants to Canada compared to Canadian grads. And given that over 250,000 new immigrants come to Canada each year. This means that a large percentage of them are more than qualified to work in a professional field but can’t because their certification isn’t valid. “What happens is that a lot of these new immigrants are in the 25 to 45 range,” says Johnson. “They have experience in whatever profession they’re in and they come here ready and able to work. And they end up shovelling snow or driving a cab because the Canadian government doesn’t view their skillset in the same way it does that it does people that were born here.”
The way the current Point System is structured, immigrants must have a certificate or degree to qualify as a skilled worker but this must be in conjunction with a predetermined number of years of experience. This means that a twenty five year old immigrant with a degree from an overseas university may not qualify when in reality they’re more than capable of doing a skilled job. The solution to this issue is for new immigrants, if they do not meet the point system to qualify as a skilled worker, to re-certify. Many post-secondary institutions such as Ashton College in Vancouver BC, offer programs geared specifically for working professionals wanting to upgrade their certification and enter the Canadian workforce. “What new immigrants need to do is take a step up,” says Johnson. “They’re already used to hustling, this gives them a leg up on a lot of other Canadians. Once they’re certified there’s no telling what they’ll accomplish.”
Ashton College is an accredited post-secondary institution offering professional and flexible education options for students looking to re-certify existing qualifications or change careers.