Who Is Serving You?
Underemployment for new immigrants is a huge issue. The CLAC Foundation is working to change that
By Dan VanKeeken, The CLAC Foundation Program Manager
Most days, I pull into the Tim Horton’s drive through near my home on the way to work—or to anywhere really. Any excuse to grab a Tim’s steeped tea, and maybe a muffin or donut.
Many of the Tim’s I’ve visited across Canada over the years have something in common, other than the menu. They are usually staffed by new immigrants to Canada. That’s certainly true of the Tim’s near my house. Many newcomers from north Africa serve alongside those from the Philippines and India.
They’re the lucky ones. Many immigrants, especially those with poor English skills, can only get jobs cleaning offices and other businesses, often at night. According to one Canadian study, underemployment has been one of the persistent challenges that newcomers face when they join the Canadian workforce. They often must work in jobs that do not match their skills, education, and training. Even those with years of international experience and advanced qualifications end up working in survival jobs with minimal income.
Often all they need is a bit of training to land a better job, especially as they improve their language skills. That’s where non-profits come in, including the CLAC Foundation. It provides funding for immigrants that are being helped by Foundation partners like MOSAIC and Action for Healthy Communities to get training at CLAC Training centres and other training suppliers. Just a few tickets earned this way can make a world of difference to someone trying to gain a foothold in Canada and provide for their family.
Canada is making progress in providing better access to jobs for immigrants. According to that same study I mentioned earlier, “Across the country, newcomer unemployment rates are at an all-time low. Large employers are more and more aware—and appreciative—of the valuable skills that immigrants bring. On top of that, different levels of government, corporations, and the settlement sector are all looking for ways to address the challenges that hold immigrant talent back.”
Unfortunately, the vast majority of efforts are focused on the immediate outcome: getting that first job in Canada. While necessary, this says very little about the quality of jobs that immigrants are securing and whether they can advance in their area of expertise.
Canada has a longstanding history of economic immigration, and immigrant talent has been one of the key drivers of economic growth and innovation. In recent years, the demand for the skills and knowledge that immigrants bring has increased substantially. Canada’s population is rapidly aging; over nine million baby boomers will be leaving the workforce in the next decade. This, accompanied by decreasing birth rates, present a pressing need to generate a sufficient workforce to ensure economic growth. Doing so depends on ensuring newcomers can successfully enter and advance in the workforce.
The CLAC Foundation is one small part of the solution.
The CLAC Foundation supports training for homeless and marginalized workers in Canada, as well as new immigrants. It also funds international projects, training, and workshops that help workers advocate for their rights in the developing world, where working conditions are often far worse than in Canada and benefits are scarce.