Putting the immigrant advantage to work

November 3, 2023

“A parked car takes you nowhere.” professional development plan

“All the dreams, all the imagining, all the wanting is like sitting in a parked car that will take you nowhere. We need a plan, we need to execute, we need to evaluate, and we need to figure out a way to make this dream a reality. And then step up the game, help other people make their dreams a reality.”

Those are the words of Sobhana Jaya-Madhavan, Vice-President of External Relations at Simon Fraser University, who was the keynote speaker at the October 28 Immigrant Professional Conference (IPC).

MOSAIC’s 13th annual Immigrant Professionals Conference saw nearly 200 skilled immigrants attend the day-long conference with industry experts presenting, with a focus on “The Immigrant Advantage”.

Each year the conference provides immigrants with the opportunity to improve their professional development, which includes the opportunity to network, participate in discussions and listen to guest speakers with lived experience as immigrants.

MOSAIC CEO Olga Stachova provided opening remarks with words of welcome and highlighted a common question asked by MOSAIC clients: “Why can’t Canada recognize my education and experience? Why wouldn’t they let me work in my profession?”

The question comes amidst labour shortages as the B.C. government announced the introduction of fair credential recognition legislation for foreign trained immigrant professionals to address the widening labour gap in Canada.

“The legislation is putting new requirements on provincial regulatory bodies to increase transparency and efficiency in processing credential assessments, and removing the unfair requirement for Canadian work experience,” Stachova noted.

According to WorkBC, immigrants form over 20 per cent of Canada’s workforce, with a significant number of newcomers being highly educated and multilingual, with the added advantage of using such skills to link business to ethnic communities in Canada and abroad.

“We talk all the time about the fact that we’re going to need to fill one million jobs in the next 10 years, and 80 per cent of those jobs require some degree of professional certification. We’re depending on immigration to fill about 400,000 of those jobs,” said B.C. Minister of Workforce Development, Andrew Mercier, who attended the IPC event to welcome the delegates.

“We don’t have a labour shortage, because we have enough folks in British Columbia now. We’ve had 250,000 people who have immigrated to British Columbia in the last two years alone, many of whom have brought credentials and skills, but are blocked from practicing in their chosen fields,” Mercier said. “We have a matching issue in terms of our regulatory bodies and certification.”

Mercier says the introduction of the International Credential Assessment Act on Oct. 23, 2023 aims to remove barriers across 29 professions, such as the requirement to have Canadian work experience.

Jaya-Madhavan shared her immigrant journey from India to Canada, from working as an usher in Vancouver’s GM Place stadium (now known as Rogers Arena) to becoming Vice-President of External Relations at Simon Fraser University. She encouraged attendees to turn their dreams into reality and help others achieve their goals.

Attendees also listened to multiple guest speakers with the opportunity to learn more from breakout sessions with professionals offering career and employment advice in government, skilled trades, manufacturing and tech sectors.

IPC attendee and job developer at the Mission Community Skills Centre, Ibrahim Al-Dayyeni, immigrated to Canada from Iraq in 2018 and currently supports newcomers in finding jobs in the food industry.

He noted that finding skills-commensurate employment is a major challenge for those new to Canada. (professional development plan)

“Professionally, [newcomer professionals] don’t understand what Canadian experience means, because for example someone has 30 years of work experience on the ground in engineering, so when they come here, they ask what this means, because they’re already experienced,” Al-Dayyeni said.

He added that employers need to provide guidance to newcomer professionals seeking employment and help them adjust their skills in accordance with Canadian standards.

The event later wrapped up with an employer panel discussion which featured Kim Barbero, CEO of Mechanical Contractors Association of BC, Ella Laure Hipolito, Senior Associate at Boyden, Rishabh Mehta, Assistant Branch Manager for the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Newcomer Specialist Team, Najib Raie, Vice-President, Primacorp Ventures and Dr. Cameron Stockdale, President and CEO of Work Wellness Institute. The audience were given an opportunity to voice their questions and receive advice from panelists.

“I have met many people from different backgrounds, lots of professionals from multiple industries and excellent speakers. The breakout sessions were amazing, and I got to meet other people there as well. The whole experience has been great,” said Shafiqur Rahman, an accounting professional from Bangladesh with over 10 years of experience across multiple business roles.

Rahman’s sentiment echoes what many newcomers and attendees alike have said – the lack of Canadian work experience is a major barrier to those seeking to begin their lives in Canada.

MOSAIC thanks its sponsors, Royal Bank of Canada, Arc’teryx, Vancouver Community College, Invest Vancouver, Primacorp Ventures, Shaw Multicultural and WorkBC in addition to its featured speakers and participating exhibitors.

For more information about IPC, visit the event website. (professional development plan)