Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and good morning to everyone.
Thank you for your invitation to the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada to prepare for important discussions like this one.
Over the past 17 years we have been known as CPAC, an organization that represents over 25,000 foreign-born professionals who live, work, and own businesses across Canada.
Recently we welcomed both Mr. Calandra and Mr. Karygiannis to our annual education foundation scholarship gala, and just before the gala, we held our first Chinese professionals day here in Ottawa. Thank you again to those who attended those events.
How to help newcomers settle in Canada is a question that governments have been working to address for hundreds of years. Throughout our history, Canada has encouraged skilled immigrants to settle here, continue our growth, and continue building this great nation we call home. In my time today, I will make three observations and three suggestions that can make a real difference in the way people settle in Canada.
First are some observations.
First, helping professionals is critical in lifting the prosperity of entire communities in Canada. Some might not think that the most well-educated immigrants need settlement services, but they do.
Second, Canada lacks sufficient bridging programs necessary to help foreign-trained professionals practice in Canada.
Our third observation is that the Government of Canada should do more to partner with non-governmental or service-provider organizations like CPAC, the YMCA, CICS, and others to deliver bridging programs for professionals. Direct connection to the community and a lack of understanding of government by newcomers often prevents immigrants from taking advantage of all that government has to offer within its own agencies. Plus, accountable outside organizations can be more responsive to alter training to suit the situation as it changes on the street.
What's the cost of not helping professionals settle in Canada? The cost is that Canada becomes a less attractive place to land, particularly in relation to the United States and Australia, which are attracting more and more professionals from Asia. So we need to help professionals, build bridging programs, and enable NGOs to deliver programs.
Now let me provide some context and offer three suggestions.
CPAC is a very busy place these days. Our career development, mentoring support, entrepreneurship training, and networking forums are full, and we're planning to build a new career and education centre in Toronto to manage the demand for our services as things get busier.
A few days ago, our Prime Minister declared that the greatest opportunity for economic growth for Canada is in Asia. We support this statement, and the Prime Minister's recent trip to China, India, and South Korea will serve to increase the demand for settlement services in the coming months.
At the present time, the only government partner CPAC has bridging program agreements with is the Government of Ontario. Together, in concert with partners, we work with the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to help professionals close the gap between practising their profession and having a low-paying job in Canada.
Given the current demands for our services and the stories we hear from Asia, we see a great need for professional settlement bridging support in the following areas: mentoring support, soft skills training, and regulation and certification. Allow me to quickly illustrate the benefits of these three programs.
With regard to mentoring support, we have developed a very successful mentoring support program that has helped many newcomers find employment in Canada. We believe that matching newcomers with a mentor from their own culture truly helps them become settled more quickly. Mentors and mentees with similar cultural backgrounds are a success because they relate to each other—they build bonds of trust that are stronger than would otherwise be the case. This program is funded only by CPAC and other community-minded corporate partners who see these people as future employees.
Our second suggestion is a focus on soft skills training. Through our experience, we have learned that interpersonal and communication skills often make the difference for those competing for employment in Canada. We have seen first-hand that when professionals lack soft skills, entire families will suffer. CPAC encourages the Government of Canada to make soft skills training part of the curriculum in ESL and LINC programs.
Furthermore, the training must be industry-specific to be useful. For example, imagine starting a new business in Canada with 15 years of experience as an accountant in Beijing. You don't need certification to set up shop as an accountant in Canada, but for some clients, certain designations are required. To complicate the matter more, a new accountant has to choose from among four certification organizations that all say they are good. Plus, if you are from mainland China, chances are you've never met a lawyer, nor have you had to work with a bank in the way that we do here. As a result, to become established as a foreign-trained accountant in Canada takes years longer, if it happens at all.
We highly recommend more soft skills training broken down by professional categories, such as engineers, and divided further by subcategories, such as mechanical, electrical, civil.
Finally, let me turn to regulated professions: engineers, accountants, architects, health care professionals, and more. In Canada, highly skilled professionals are regulating themselves now more than ever. However, parallel regulations don't always exist in other countries. The difference becomes a barrier to settlement and success.
For example, I know a newcomer with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering who came to Canada from China in 2002. He practised his profession for more than 15 years and was a leader in his industry back home. In China, engineers undergo rigorous training, but do not need certification. Upon graduation from university, they are qualified as engineers. After struggling for two years, working at a low-paying job in Canada, he found CPAC and enrolled in our mentoring and bridging program. He soon became employed in his own field and was qualified by the Professional Engineers of Ontario. Now in his early forties, he is doing consultative work in the U.S. on behalf of a Canadian engineering firm.
The same story is repeated in almost every profession. While we applaud the Government of Canada's recent framework for recognizing foreign credentials, there are very few profession-specific programs in place to help professionals bridge the gap between the profession they knew and the profession they want to practise here.
To summarize, professionals who immigrate to Canada need help to become successful citizens here. The Government of Canada has an important role to play in providing non-governmental organizations with the resources to deliver the bridging programs that professionals need to succeed.
Improved mentoring support, soft skills training, and certification support can help make Canada once again a destination of choice for professionals the world over. By helping professionals, you will help entire families and create community role models we can all be proud of.
CPAC is willing and ready to share our experience and our mentoring and bridging model with any community agency.
Thank you once again for honouring us with the opportunity today. I will be happy to answer any question you may have.