Evidence of meeting #7 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was employers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jonathan Beddoes  Dean, Faculty of Engineering, University of Manitoba
  • Peter Idahosa  President, Alberta International Medical Graduates Association
  • Pam Nordstrom  Director, School of Nursing, Mount Royal University
  • Joan Atlin  Director of Programs, Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council
  • Thomas Tam  Chief Executive Officer, SUCCESS

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much for that presentation.

We'll now turn to Mr. Tam.

October 25th, 2011 / 4:45 p.m.

Thomas Tam Chief Executive Officer, SUCCESS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Honourable members of the standing committee, my name is Thomas Tam. I'm the CEO of SUCCESS, which is a multicultural organization serving new Canadians in British Columbia. We serve over 180,000 people a year through our offices in greater Vancouver, northern B.C., and three overseas offices in China, Korea, and Taiwan.

Today my focus will be on the foreign credentials recognition process. As an immigrant-serving agency, we have been working with internationally educated skilled workers, or IEPs, since 2001. Of course, we have a lot of partners. We partner with employers, sector councils, regulatory bodies, and government departments. Details of our involvement and services are attached for your reference.

Today I will focus on our recommendations to overcome the systematic challenges faced by internationally trained professionals. They face four major challenges, but recently we identified an additional fifth one.

The first four challenges are lack of Canadian work experience, lack of Canadian cultural exposure, lack of language proficiency, and lack of a Canadian network. The recent fifth challenge we have identified is the financial barriers. I think in the previous session, there was also some discussion on the financial barriers facing foreign-trained professionals.

In terms of recommendations, we recommend a six-point strategy. There are six areas that we would like the committee, as well as the federal government, to consider. We suggest a specialized foreign credential recognition case management service. At this time, most new immigrants can only get employment services at a provincial level in a very piecemeal manner. It's short term and when the funding contract is finished, there's no continuity of service for the internationally educated professionals. As you know, the whole process is very lengthy, costly, and sometimes insulting, so a lot of immigrants end up just getting survival-type jobs. They may not be able to afford the long battle without a very supportive case management system.

Second, we recommend a new and separate language and communication proficiency to replace cultural competency training. Language and workplace culture are always very big hurdles for foreign-trained professionals entering the different professions. This is what we call a soft skill. We have a lot of experience working with sector councils and employers, and this proved to be a very effective way to speed up the whole foreign credentials recognition process.

Third, we recommend an effective bridging mechanism between the internationally educated professionals and the regulatory bodies. This bridging program would be different from what we just discussed; it's not a technical bridging program. We find that many internationally trained professionals group together, but they don't have very good communication with the regulatory bodies. We tried a couple of projects. One was working with foreign-trained nurses in B.C., in partnership with the nurses' union of the province, to develop some support groups among the nurses. Then the nurses grouped together to support each other, and we also organized activities between the support groups, the nurses' union, and some regulatory bodies. People can sustain the struggle with the support of their peers on the same journey toward the foreign credentials recognition process. We would like to see more support for these support groups so that they can sustain the whole journey.

Fourth, we recommend extensive work placement services for IEPs. I think Joan also mentioned that. Mentoring and placement opportunities are very important. In B.C. we've been working closely with both the local organizations as well as some sector councils. We work with ICTC, the Information Communication and Technology Council, to run some pilot projects in Vancouver to help to recruit foreign-trained professionals to get into some placement and mentoring services.

The fifth one is the service support to employers. In the last ten years we never overlooked the importance of employers accepting and understanding the challenges and the benefits of hiring foreign-trained professionals. So the support to employers is very important. We have a website providing the tools for the HR departments of the business owners in terms of hiring and retaining immigrant workers. We also provide training for employers in understanding the challenges of internationally trained professionals.

Finally, we would like this document to support regionalization initiatives. What I mean here is to connect the immigrants to areas of more opportunities, especially in some smaller communities that are industry-based, like our project now at Fort St. John, which is the oil- and gas-based small town in northern B.C. We need more resources and support to encourage internationally trained professionals to go there and to help resolve the skill and labour shortage over there. We've been working very well with the community, with the energy companies, and also with people in Vancouver encouraging immigrants to relocate to the smaller communities.

Honourable members of the standing committee, I respectfully submit my report for your deliberation.

Thank you.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much, Mr. Tam. I appreciate that presentation.

Ms. Crowder.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I want to thank Ms. Atlin and Mr. Tam for coming and for providing so succinctly some concrete recommendations for the committee's consideration.

I think most of us here can tell stories in our own ridings about people who have come to Canada specifically because of their professional designation or work experience in their country of origin, and yet can't work in their field.

You may not have these numbers, but do you have any sense among clients you deal with how many actually find work in their field, and within what timeframe?

4:55 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, SUCCESS

Thomas Tam

There are two kinds of experiences. One is a generic service, say for someone with a support group with all those workshops and seminars. It's difficult to track the results.

On the other hand, we also have very specific programs of a pilot nature. For example, three years ago we worked with Spectra Energy, a very big energy company in Fort St. John, and we recruited twelve Chinese engineers, all of whom were new immigrants in Vancouver. We worked with the company to develop a six-month training program, half in Vancouver and half in Fort St. John, including the placement. After that program, 100% of this group of twelve people were hired by the company. Of course, they may not be licensed engineers, but they were all hired entering into the junior engineering profession.

So for some specific programs of a very confined scope, we can track the success of the result. For another example I just mentioned, the work with ICTC, we also got close to a 100% success rate.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Ms. Atlin, this seems to be coming up fairly consistently. Witnesses are often saying that they can't give us accurate numbers simply because there's no way of tracking people, but it sounds like anecdotally people feel there's a significant number of people not working in their profession.

Ms. Atlin, do you have any sense of numbers?

4:55 p.m.

Director of Programs, Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council

Joan Atlin

Actually, I did bring some numbers with me. I have a StatsCan report that 80% of working-age skilled immigrants found work during their first year in Canada; however, only 42% found work in their intended occupation.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

So less than half.

4:55 p.m.

Director of Programs, Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council

Joan Atlin

It's less than half.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

It's a significant loss when we're talking about productivity in Canada. We're talking about all those kinds of things. With the previous presenters, we heard—

4:55 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, SUCCESS

Thomas Tam

It's what we call survival jobs.

4:55 p.m.

Director of Programs, Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council

Joan Atlin

There are certainly stats. There was a study by RBC a couple of years ago. I can't remember the number off the top of my head, but it's in the billions, the money lost to the Canadian economy through the under-recognition of—

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Sorry, who did that study?

4:55 p.m.

Director of Programs, Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

RBC.

The matter of Canadian work experience is coming up consistently. A number of witnesses have raised this, and you certainly raised it. You've talked about the internship and the mentoring role that the federal government could play. Are there other things the federal government could do to create Canadian work experience in people's designated fields?