Work: Finding a Job

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By Karen Bridson-Boyczuk

Karen Bridson-Boyczuk is a journalist, author, personal fitness trainer and mother. She has published two books on fitness and health for women.

Finding a job in Canada can be very hard for newcomers. About 70% of new immigrants have trouble finding work, says a study of new immigrants by Statistics Canada. These people had trouble for many reasons, including language troubles, not knowing anyone and their qualifications from their home country not counting here.

The good news is that 44% of newcomers found work within six months of coming to Canada. Of those people, eight in ten had full-time jobs, the others had part-time jobs. Another 37% were still looking for jobs.

Dr. Jarka Hrabal said before she came to Canada she was a respected dentist working at a university in Yugoslavia, but she ‘was nobody’ when she came to Canada.

“I had no language, I had no money,” said Hrabal, who said she and her husband struggled to put a roof over their children’s heads while they also paid for her to retake her dentist classes.

Between October 2000 and September 2001, Statistics Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada asked 12,000 of the 165,000 immigrants who came into the country a number of questions about six months after they arrived. They put their answers together in a Statistics Canada study in 2001. The study found:

  • 70% of all newcomers had jobs
  • immigrants aged 25 to 44 had the most jobs, with half of these people getting a job within six months of coming to Canada
  • newcomers who came to the country with lots of money had more jobs than those who came with less money
  • more than half of newcomers who could speak English or French had jobs when asked, but only one-third of those who couldn’t speak those languages had jobs
  • six out of ten people who had jobs were not working in the same jobs they did in their home country
  • most newcomers work in sales and service, processing and manufacturing jobs
  • before coming to Canada, men mostly worked in sciences and management and women mostly worked in business, finance, administration, social science and education
  • 42% of newcomers with jobs were looking for another job
  • 76% of newcomers had at least one foreign credential (schooling higher than high school)
  • having no experience and trouble with credentials were problems for 26% of newcomers with credentials
  • 22% of newcomers with credentials said language was a problem finding work and 9% said not having a job made it hard to find better jobs
  • by six months after arrival, 26% of immigrants with credentials had one credential verified
  • by six months after arrival, 45% of newcomers had pursued some kind of schooling
  • 28% of newcomers had taken one or more classes toward a degree or certificate and 12%.

Today she is a successful dentist, but she remembers how hard times were then.
When people first arrive in Canada they are usually given work permits quite quickly, then directed to a number of agencies in the community that can help them get settled and find work.

Josie DiZio, Director of Employment Services with COSTI, is a person who tries to help new Canadians find work. One program she helps provide is called the Centre for Foreign Trained Professions and Trades. “These programs are for people with any professional background who are unemployed,” she said.
The program is three weeks long and is in a group setting. Students learn about job planning, finding jobs while going to school, how to get a job full-time and working on interview skills.

At the end of the program, workers in the program try to help people find jobs. Another program COSTI offers is Job Connect Internationally Trained Individuals Program. This is a more flexible program, giving students one- on-one help and job search help. Students in this program can get $400 to put towards buying business clothes, setting up a telephone and things they need to get a job.

“We help people find jobs,” DiZio said.

The ProConnect program is a two-week job search program with individual support. This is another option for newcomers with training past high school from their home country. For those who are not specially trained, COSTI also has 12 Employment Resource Centres across the GTA to help them.

“They are like a library,” she said. “They can’t get one-on-one counseling but they can use the computers and use the books.”

There is also a JobConnect Youth Program for younger people looking for work. COSTI also offers many language services to help people learn English. Even with the help of these programs, it is still hard for newcomers to find jobs. But more and more employers want to hire newcomers these days, said DiZio.
“We’ve been working quite a bit to raise the awareness of employers that this is the labour market now and that it is a good business practice to hire new Canadians,” she said. “Word is out and employers are much more receptive today than they were even a year ago.”

Banks are one of the places newcomers are hired the most, she said. The City of Toronto, Canadian Tire and Home Depot are also among the companies that hire many new Canadians.

The Access to Professions and Trades Ontario

A new online resource ( is helping skilled newcomers pursue jobs in Ontario with skills in a profession or trade.“More skilled immigrants will have access to information that will help them continue to practice their profession or trade in Ontario,” said Mary Anne Chambers, Minister of Training for the province.

The site also has a list of 1,500 services that can help newcomers find work. Newcomers can also dial 211 on the telephone and get free help finding information in many languages.

The Statistics Canada study said many newcomers think getting more schooling is important for their finding jobs they want here.

The study said 67% plan to get further training.

One place that is helping newcomers get on that path is Skills For Change, a Toronto-based organization helping internationally-trained professionals. Ramsay Kane is the manager of the Skills for Change STIC (Sector Terminology, Information and Counseling) program. The program helps people find work in four sectors: accounting, engineering, health care professionals and information technology. These four areas of work are where people are needed in Ontario.
“We provide six weeks of classroom training,” said Kane, who said the accounting program is 12 weeks long. In the program people learn many things in the classes, including tips on how to find jobs, how to write a good résumé, how to be interviewed and what words they will need in their jobs in Canada. They also receive counseling.

“Coming to a new country, some of these people are coming from pretty traumatic situations,” he said. “These people also have other issues they are facing. Some of these people may have been imprisoned or persecuted or had a family member murdered. Dealing with these issues is number one. And they have (very little) money and sometimes no support. They need to be dealt with in a really compassionate way.”

The technical words they used in engineering in their country may not be the words used here, he said, so STIC teaches them the words they will need. They also learn what’s going on with people in that area of work and help them learn about what schooling they will need, what certifications they will need and what their schooling at home is worth in Canada.

Some people who come into this program have already done some schooling in Canada and are ready to get jobs. Others have just started the job of finding work.
“We link them up with the world they will be working in,” he said. Skills for Change can also help them learn to speak better English. For people who don’t have special skills, Skills for Change offers help finding work in sales and secretarial jobs.

Programs like these are important because many of the professionals in Canada today were first trained outside of the country. About one-third of the 65,000 licensed engineers in Ontario were educated outside Canada, said David Smith, of Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO).

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