Do you really need Canadian experience for employment in Ontario?

The notion of experience is deeply engrained in Canadians right from the start of childhood. I remember setting up my first lemonade stand with a neighbourhood friend at the age of ten. At the age of fourteen, I completed close to 100 hours of community involvement activities. By fifteen, I had landed my first part-time job as at the Ontario Science Centre. By the time I was entering university, I was juggling two sales jobs. It is no secret that in the eyes of Canadians, experience is viewed as an essential building block to their careers.

While most people can appreciate the importance of acquiring practical experience and skill sets in preparation for a job, the question that boggles the minds of newcomers to Canada (particularly newcomers to Ontario), is whether “Canadian experience” is at all necessary for employment. According to Barbara Hall, the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (“OHRC”), the requirement for Canadian experience poses, to newcomers, a “big barrier to their entry into the workforce”.

According to a recent final report by Ontario’s Expert Roundtable on Immigration, due to the economic shift in the recent years,

“Post-secondary education and core skills for the knowledge economy (including advanced analytical, literacy, numeracy, interpersonal communication, and digital competency skills) are becoming more important for labour market success and for economic growth in Ontario. Regrettably, internationally-acquired education, skills, work experience, and networks are often undervalued.”

The report further startles us with the fact that,

“While working age immigrants are, on average, better educated than the Canadian-born, they experience higher rates of unemployment and are significantly less likely to work in the fields for which they were trained. For many immigrants arriving in Canada, the greatest barriers to employment in their fields are lack of Canadian experience…” [emphasis added].

In response to this actuality, the OHRC launched on October 5, 2012, a new survey that will help them to better examine the economic and social implications of Canadian experience requirements on newcomers to Ontario.

Newcomers who have been in Canada for less than 10 years and looking for jobs in Ontario, as well as employers or human resources professionals who looks for “Canadian experience” when hiring potential employees, are encouraged to complete the OHRC’s five-minute survey (available in English and French). The survey will be conducted over the next three weeks after which the results will be used in further consultation on the subject.

The Ontario Minister of Immigration, the Honourable Charles Sousa, recognizes the shortfalls of the province and is currently engaged in strengthening its qualities. And although the country’s pitfalls make it appear less welcoming, maybe we should just all take in a deep breath… and enjoy the country’s fall foliage while we still can.

Resources

Click here to learn about the employment support services for newcomers provided by the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. These services include:

  • Newcomer settlement agencies;
  • Ontario bridge training program; and
  • Global Experience Ontario (GEO).

The website also provides links to the following government websites:

  • Information on Ontario government jobs;
  • Information for youth and new professionals;
  • Employment Ontario;
  • Ontario’s Job Bank; and
  • Information on federal government jobs.

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