For some time now Canada has welcomed immigrants from around the world to come live in this great country we call ours. It’s rich in its natural resources, expansive geography and of particular note our diversity.
While some countries insist those coming from other lands and cultures assimilate into the host country and conform to their way of life, Canada has a tradition of encouraging newcomers to celebrate their individual cultures and in so doing, we all benefit and become enriched.
Does this necessarily translate however into the Canadian workforce? If you listen to the stories of rejected job applicants who come to Canada with hard skills acquired in foreign lands the answer isn’t as flattering as we Canadians might like to think. Many a job applicant who meets an organization’s hiring criteria eventually hears that fateful phrase, “Sorry, you just don’t have any Canadian experience.” By the way, this kind of blatant discrimination is illegal here in Ontario Canada, and while larger organizations are most often aware of this, I suspect many smaller employers don’t share this awareness when they so openly reject applicants by citing this.
Now just to be fair, those born and raised in Canada often run into the same kind of frustration when applying for positions. It’s not uncommon for an applicant to be told, “I’m sorry, you just don’t have local experience.” So what’s local? To some employers, they’d like their workforce all living within a few short kilometers to maintain good attendance on bad weather days. These kind of employers take on a parenting function actually by their actions; removing the responsibility from their employees to get to work on time should they live further away. I am so thankful in my own case that my employer hired me even though I live 95 kilometers from my workplace!
Perhaps you’re a native born Canadian out of work and frustrated with your inability to secure a full-time meaningful job. Your lengthening unemployment and the stress it puts on your ability to financially support yourself has you coming to resent what you see as your government opening doors to foreign job seekers. You hear of incentive programs, increased immigration targets for 2017 and when it’s all said and done you find yourself angry and that anger is being directed to arriving immigrants “stealing” good Canadian jobs.
Hmm…that might sound harsh but that’s an attitude (and a dangerous one) that if we’re honest, is out there in society today held by a number of people. But hang on a second…
For a moment, put yourself in the place of someone currently living in another country. As we are so proud to live ourselves in Canada, we know how truly amazing this country is. We’ve got mountains, prairies, vast expanses of waterways filled with clean drinking water and we’ve got vibrant world-class cities. This is the image we send around the world and those receiving look at their own desire to improve their lot in life and for those in their families, and just like us already here, they think, “That sounds like an attractive place to live.”
Then comes the news to them in their countries of origin that Canada has a shortage of skilled labour and is encouraging immigrants to come and ply their trades. Well, can you honestly say that you yourself in their situation wouldn’t strongly consider packing up and heading on over? Your motivation might be heightened if your country is being negatively impacted by war, financial hardship, weather-related problems etc. and of course if you had children you’d be imagining the wonderful improvement living in Canada would present for them.
Ah but apparently the one thing they aren’t told abroad is that upon arrival in Canada, they will run into the, ‘lack of Canadian experience’ barrier; their credentials may not have the same level of acceptance as they do in the countries where they obtained them. The result? They might have to change careers altogether or take a low-paying entry-level survival job until they can gain some traction and get that highly coveted Canadian experience.
Does ‘Canadian experience’ mean that it is ‘better experience’ no matter what the job, the field, the employment sector? What makes it better than say the experience one brings with them from another country? Technical skills are technical skills and you’ve got them or you don’t no matter where you originate from. So I suspect it’s the soft skills; the ‘way things are done’, the interpersonal skills, the transferable skills and the subtle nuances that employers are really wrapping up generally speaking when they cite the need for Canadian experience.
This applies too in the case of the homegrown men and women who are rejected out of hand for not having local experience, or who move from Province to Province and can’t get hired because their training was achieved in another part of the country. Sure some qualifications vary, and the training someone receives in one area may be tailored more to one jurisdiction than another.
I think it’s time to educate ourselves on what we’re winning and losing when we reject applicants out of hand for lacking ‘Canadian’ or ‘local’ experience.
So I ask you whether you’re an employer who demands such experience or you have experienced this kind of rejection in your pursuit of work, what’s been your experience with this issue? Share your story in the comments section and share this please.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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