Underemployment and Unemployment within ethno-cultural communities in Edmonton: an Environmental Scan and Database. Report by the Multicultural Health Brokers Coop, December 2009.

(not available online – contact the ESPC library or the MHBC to read this report)

This report takes a look at barriers to employment faced by immigrants to Edmonton. It does this through the eyes of these immigrants by providing their perspectives as gathered in focus groups and surveys.
This report is based on quantitative and qualitative data from Edmonton’s ethnic communities. The data identifies several key issues in this group:

  • Unemployment for immigrants is more than seven times the provincial rate.
  • Trained professionals have difficulty gaining employment.
  • Non-native English speakers have more difficulty finding work than native English speakers.
  • Information about employment prior to immigration is inadequate.

Despite all these barriers, attitudes towards employment in Canada, once it is attained, are mostly favourable.

Some interesting observations can be made from the data compiled. Upgrading education after arrival in Canada does not guarantee employment; only 49% of individuals who upgraded reported that they were employed. Learning English after arriving to Canada also does not guarantee employment. Only 30% of those who worked on their English skills reported that they found employment, although this strategy appears to be the most effective one used by the majority of respondents in their search for employment.

The focus group participants identify several priorities for action for helping immigrants attain employment. Immigrants would like mentorship opportunities, professional associations that will do advocacy on their behalf, and better communication of relevant information.

Participant recommendations include suggestions of specific activities employers and the government could implement to reduce barriers.

They would like employers to focus on:

  • Job placement and mentorship programs
  • Human resources attraction processes
  • Information
  • Retention practices

They provide suggestions for the government in the areas of:

Assistance for new citizens
Collaboration and partnerships
Systemic supports
Immigrant participants also recognized the need for community based solutions and individual motivation.

Six strategic priorities are provided for the Alberta Government to align its programs with the “Foreign Qualification Recognition Plan for Alberta” and “Building and Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce”. These are:

  • Enhance ability of newcomers to obtain employment through occupation or industry specific employment services.
  • Increase opportunities for newcomers to obtain Canadian education.
  • Improve English skills of newcomers.
  • Educate newcomers about Canadian work cultures in specific industries and/or occupations.
  • Facilitate network building and information sharing.
  • Educate employers so that they are more open to employing immigrants.

The report authors identify several limitations to their data gathering. All data used in this project was self reported, and many of the survey questions could have been misinterpreted. No effort was made to attain a representative sample of immigrants in Edmonton, and results cannot be generalized to Alberta because the makeup of Edmonton’s immigrant community is different than that throughout the rest of the province.

The study’s results give an interesting and insightful breakdown of Edmonton’s immigrant community. Their possible inaccuracy due to limitations is regrettable, but the study’s findings are still useful. This data could also provide a starting point for future research in this area.

Read this report if you work with immigrants, if your organization has any potential to hire immigrants, or if you are involved in policy making and strategic planning with regards to immigrant programs.

Review by Jennifer Hoyer

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