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New immigrants learn how to promote themselves in the labour market.

Well educated immigrants struggle to find good jobs

Tim Horton’s is an odd place for an anthropologist to find a job. But when Veronica Grigio arrived in Vancouver…

By Ursula Diaz , in Immigration , on October 29, 2009 Tags: , , , ,

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.

New immigrants learn how to promote themselves in the labour market.
New immigrants learn how to promote themselves in the labour market.

“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.

Bureaucratic challenges

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.

Survival jobs

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.


  • Well, all the mentioned above are in BC i’m in ontario and i’m a Network/Systems Engineer i have only 4 years of experience in my field from back home but that is quite enough to get a mid range job positioning in the IT field. My profession is a highly sough after field as published by staffing solution organizations and the government. I got my educations evaluated to canadian standards too, i’m a double BSc holder and both are evaluated to double BSc Canadian equivalent i have about five professional certifications from CISCO, but yet i am not working in my profession. Leave that alone i even didn’t get even an interview for a single application submitted. I really think that it was a mistake coming to this god-forsaken place, even thinking of it depresses me. I got an interview for a tech job through a friends friend, when i went for the interview they were all nice and all, all through out the interview but when the technical guys interview they should know that we are not in extreme touch with our former jobs we do survival jobs that take us no where except get us the cash to help us survive and there is no need for what we have learned to be used in that environment, all i need is brute force and strength. Is this what my education has become of? Is canada really the proper place for us? I really am loosing hope and don’t know what to do, it all looks hopeless. I have signed up for a program that will put an end to the endless cycle of “no job-no canadian experience-no job” but there not jobs for what i’m capable of. What i have found out about this place is that if not for immigrants the canadian economy and everything will crumble as we have no choice what-so-ever to take the survival jobs without thinking twice, and thus restraining the immigrants that are skilled from entering the productive work force. As i view this the canadian government is under utilizing its resources of skilled-labour and educated personals. As my dad says “If you get in a taxi you can get an elaborate description of what ever ailments you have-reason being quite a few taxis are driven by doctors qualified abroad”. I can go on and on about this injustice and its endless, it is hope that is a poison that drowns us in and kills us slowly one day at a time.

  • GivingUp, I totally agree with you.

    In heard yesterday on the radio that the workforce is shrinking and that maybe in the future, corporations might have to make the baby boomers work beyond their retirement age. I was thinking to myself, this isn’t true. Every year, Canada receives more than 100,000 highly skilled and educated immigrants in their productive ages. Have they ever considered them as a big chunk of the workforce? If that so, why are they saying the workforce is shrinking?

    Do you know that the corporations that won the award for “the most diverse companies” are the ones that provide training of mentorship for new immigrants, not hire them?

    Are we in the state of denial? I still truly believe that Canada has the potential to be one of the most advanced countries in the world. The fact that every year, super smart people are entering the country is a good sign. I also believe that companies that don’t want to hire new immigrants, just made a very big mistake. Immigrants are smarter, they are willing to work harder, and they are cheaper! (This last point is the main reason why they are exploited by their employers)

    Let’s not get drowned by our own regrets. Prepare yourself (update your skills), consolidate your skills with others, find capital, create your own businesses, be successful and show the Canadian corporations that they have made a huge mistake by under estimating your skills.

    And as racist as it may sound, when you become successful, hire (only) immigrants to help them out of their misery!! Make them as successful as yourself!!

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