Tim Horton’s is an odd place for an anthropologist to find a job. But when Veronica Grigio arrived in Vancouver just over a month ago, that was her best hope.
Grigio interviewed at clothing stores and for food service positions, but she didn’t mention the B.A. she completed in Rome in her resume. She thought employers wouldn’t call her back because she is overqualified for the job.
“You know you’re gonna struggle,” said Grigio. “You are leaving all your life behind, but if you are not really motivated you would never leave your country.”
Roughly 43,950 immigrants arrived last year in British Columbia, more than 50 percent of them with a professional degree from outside Canada. Yet, many of them struggle to find here work equal to the jobs they held back home.
Thirty-one percent of immigrants here with a university degree hold jobs with low skill levels, according to Statistics Canada. Skilled worker is the major immigration class in Vancouver, according to BC Stats.
If new immigrants are unprepared for searching a job, it will take from five to ten years to get the same level that they used to have in their countries, according to Derek February, an employment consultant at the Pro-Tech
Pro-Tech, like many other programs in Vancouver, is offering employment assistance to newcomers. They show people how the Canadian labour market works, how to submit references when applying for a job and help them develop interviewing skills.
William Li was a sales consultant in New Zealand, where he earned a Master’s degree in management. He also worked in China. After waiting for three years, he received his Canadian work permit.
When Li arrived here three months ago, he didn’t feel confident about his resume and cover letter. He decided to attend a job search program before he started looking for a job.
“I learned how to make a Canadian-style resume,” he said.
Employers may not recognize the education of the immigrants because they don’t know how to interpret international credentials. Some corporations require that their employees have some Canadian work experience.
Rose Li (not related to William Li) is a piping engineer. She arrived in Vancouver nine years ago with 14 years of professional experience in China. Her lack of Canadian experience and a poor command of English kept her from landing the job that she wanted. Instead, she got job as a drafter.
“Drafting is not related to my degree, but it was better than my previous job at The Salvation Army,” Li said.
She worked as a drafter for 7 years. Three months ago, the company where she used to work laid her off. She is not willing to take menial works. She said that her engineering knowledge should be enough to get a good job.
Rose Li said that her achievements from China are not being recognized here in Canada. She is thinking about taking courses to update her skills but she said she cannot wait for a long time to get a new job.
William Li moved to Vancouver with his wife and two kids and took a part-time job as part of the security staff for the Olympic Games. He considers it only temporary work.
“I have to be realistic,” Li said. “I cannot wait for the perfect job. I´ve got to be flexible, and I have to pay the bills… I will take some other jobs as long as I can keep looking for a professional job.”
As a trained anthropologist, Veronica Grigio didn’t get any of those menial jobs. She said that she couldn’t really be enthusiastic during the interviews. She admitted to feeling better without those jobs.
“I also know that sometimes you just need to go for the first job and then your big American dream just collapses,” Grigio said.