Valorizing Immigrant’s Non-Canadian Work Experience.
Report from Canadian Council on Learning, 2009.
As a result of Canada’s low birth rate, and the retirement of an aging population, immigrant workers are becoming increasingly important in Canada’s labour force. This report explores foreign work experience and its role in the assessment and recognition of immigrants’ qualifications for Canadian jobs.
The identified barriers that immigrants face when searching for work in Canada include (1) lack of recognition for foreign credentials, (2) language barrier, and (3) the lack of valorization of foreign work experience. Unfortunately, most programs and initiatives today are only designed to address the first two.
This becomes a major problem, placing immigrants in a Catch 22 situation where they are unable to get a job without Canadian experience, and are unable to get Canadian experience without a job.
This report further examines foreign work experience through innovative practices, challenges, and government support
Innovative Practices to Valorizing Foreign Work Experience
One innovative practice includes the preparation, organization, and conduct of interviews. Organizations such as RBC, Assiniboine Credit Union, and Manulife train or coach immigrant applicants in cross cultural communication techniques to explain and understand how foreign experience relates to the Canadian labour market. This approach requires thatimmigrants learn about the cultural context of the Canadian workplace, the Canadian labour market, and the operations and informal culture of the industry sector; and recruiters and managers learn about the different effects of cultural differences on communication.
Innovative practices also include bridging programs that integrate immigrants’ foreign experience into the assessment of their knowledge and skills, the demonstration of competencies, resume preparation and job searches, and customized internships and placements. These bridging programs are evident in a few organizations including The Immigrant Skilled Trades Employment Program (ISTEP), Workplace Integration of Newcomers (WIN), and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
One of the prevailing challenges is the lack of recognition by employers of the value of work experience acquired outside Canada. This is often due to the inability of employers to understand how foreign work experience may relate to the Canadian workplace and contribute to it. This causes many employers to simply refuse foreign work experience as valid experience for employment.This report also argues that the “diversity advantage” that immigrants with foreign experience can bring to our economy to enhance our international competitiveness is utilized by few employers; some who may even argue that it does not exist.Addressing this problem will require investments of time, effort, and money to provide effective communication and well-designed education and training.
Many innovative practices for valorizing foreign work experience have been exercised by the Immigrant Settlement Agencies (ISAs), with support from Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Immigrant Settlement and Adaption Program and some provincial governments. As well the federal government’s Foreign Credential Recognition (FCR) program in late 2003 with a budget of $68 million stimulated a variety of initiatives.
These initiatives have resulted in an increased openness among employers to understand the experience and needs of immigrants, and to take unaccustomed risks in recruitment, hiring, and workplace integration practices.
Although there are many promising developments surrounding the issue of valorizing foreign work experience, it is evident that Canada's employers and governments still face many challenges in creating a smooth transition for immigrants looking for work in Canada. Organizations must begin to recognize and value immigrant experience to not only address the trending worker shortage in Canada, but to also identify the opportunity of hiring immigrants as a ‘diversity advantage’ where they are gaining new skills and experience that will further drive organizations to new strengths and economic competitiveness.
Read this report if you are an organization interested in valorizing foreign work experience, or are an individual interested in immigration work related issues.
Read the report online.
Review by Darlene Paranaque
Financial Literacy: Strategies to meet the needs of low-income Albertans. Report from Social and Enterprise Development Innovations, June 2009.
Everyone is talking about money these days. Or rather, everyone is talking about lack of money; the last eighteen months have proven difficult for most Canadians. While financial literacy is not a new idea, it has received attention as the general public realizes they might not be making the best financial decisions. We are not as financially literate as we could be.
Social and Enterprise Development Innovations (SEDI) is a Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income Canadians achieve economic self-sufficiency. Their work spans areas including financial literacy, asset building, and entrepreneurship. Briefly defined, SEDI is working from the premise that the goals of financial literacy are to increase financial knowledge and change financial behaviour. The Alberta Ministry of Employment and Immigration asked SEDI to look at financial literacy in Alberta, more specifically how it is effective and could improve the lives of low-income Albertans.
This project resulted in Financial Literacy: Strategies to Meet the Needs of Low-Income Albertans, a report that surveys best practices in financial literacy programs and policies around the globe and within Alberta. It contains feedback from program participants on how policies and strategies can be most effective.
Around the world
Internationally, New Zealand has taken the lead in successful financial literacy programs and policies. They are one of a small number of countries that has conducted a national financial literacy survey (Statistics Canada is currently working on a similar project); this survey indicated which demographics have lower levels of financial literacy. The data collected has been used to create a national strategy, which focuses on inclusion of financial education in school curriculum, provision of adequate information for any citizen faced with financial decision, and promotion of financial literacy programs in the workplace. The strategy focuses on teaching financial literacy at every age, with the recognition that financial habits develop early in life.
Hallmarks of a good national strategy
Programs in the UK, USA and Australia are also examined. Successful approaches to financial literacy in all these countries have several characteristics:
Attitudes that financial literacy is a basic skill needed over the course of one’s life
A national survey to create a baseline measure, with follow-up surveys every few years
Multi-sectoral strategies, in the form of partnerships with many types of organizations to reach all audiences
Ongoing program evaluation
Information and programs are provided free of charge In Canada
The Canadian government invested five million dollars in financial literacy over the course of 2007 and 2008, through the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Several other organizations, including the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, SEDI, the Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy, and the Joint Forum of Financial Market Regulators, are also involved in financial literacy program and policy development. The only province to currently boast financial literacy components within school curriculum is British Columbia. Several programs have been developed to target low-income Canadians who aren’t in school in major cities such as Ottawa, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Vancouver, in conjunction with the YMCA, CIBC, and other local organizations.
Here in Alberta, organizations in municipalities across the province have set up financial literacy programs for their clients and other low-income earners in their communities. In Edmonton, the Candora Society’s Women’s Savings group focuses on strategies for saving money and connecting to community resources. The Edmonton Financial Literacy Society creates financial literacy curriculum tailored to several specific target audiences, such as aboriginals or immigrants. In Calgary, Momentum has programs to help low-income earners better manage their resources to achieve financial self-sufficiency.
As a result of recent economic events, approaches to financial literacy have become more reactive rather than proactive. It is important that policy developers keep in mind the need for proactive strategies even as they deal with current crises. Recent events have also proven that, while financial literacy education is crucial, regulation and public policy to protect consumers must also be in place.
This report contains solid grounding on the ingredients of sound financial literacy policy, and feedback from program participants will provide the Alberta Ministry of Employment and Immigration with insight into the barriers program developers and participants may face.
Read this report if you are involved in financial literacy program or policy development and delivery; if you are working to improve the lives of low-income Albertans; if you are interested in financial education.
Visit our library catalogue to find this publication in our library or online. For more information on SEDI’s own perspective on financial literacy, visit their website at www[dot]sedi[dot]org, or check out some of the following publications (available online or through the ESPC library):
Financial Inclusion for Homeless Persons and Those at Risk. SEDI, 2008.
Delivery Models for Financial Literacy Interventions: A Case Study Approach. SEDI, 2008.
Financial Capability: Learning from Canadian Communities. SEDI, 2006.
Review by Jennifer Hoyer