Immigrant Recruitment in Canada: A Truly Competitive Platform Needed

By Riffat Shahnawaz

Based on my human resource management (HRM) knowledge, Canadian recruitment managers try their best to fit with Human Rights and Employment Standard Act, but the question is do they succeed in the context of diversity or immigrants?

Breaking Down Equal Opportunity
As an immigrant, the first thing that comes to your mind is that you have landed in the land of opportunities where equality, fairness and merit based hiring means a great deal.

Going through my HRM studies in Canada, I learned that individuals are not to be hired based on their background, religion, race, age and gender as it is discriminatory in Canada. This sounds really fair as you don’t have to attach your photo or give away your date of birth, info about your race, religion or background on your resume.

Unfortunately, impressive as this seems, it only works for highly-skilled jobs called upon due to labour shortage. It doesn’t work in many other fields, and a good example would be the Government sector.

Going the Government Route
Immigrants have the perception that the Government sector is only concerned about hiring minimum numbers from diverse or visible minority group in order to satisfy Employment Standard—and thus represents a good, fair opportunity.

However, let’s dig a little bit deeper into the Government sector opportunity. First, you have to create a profile with the Public Service Commission, to be considered in the pool awaiting employment invitation. If lucky enough to be invited, the process will move forward. Otherwise, you remain in the pool forever, and keep updating it.

You do not have to show your background, religion or race, but are required to write the name of the university from which you graduated along with the location. Nor do you have to show your age, but you do have to write the year of graduation which gives a pretty good idea in most of the cases.

The Underpaid Alternative Path
The alternate means of gaining employment as an immigrant is to start from bottom and use references to move forward or up. However, what this often means for immigrants, even those with management skills, is excessive time and effort spent at the entry level first. For example, imagine gaining work as a cleaner having run your own maintenance company, and years later still not having reached your desired, let alone prior, fit for your skills or abilities.

Old Country Systems Spur New Thinking
The questions boil down to the need for a merit-based hiring platform. There is presently no platform where immigrants can compete based on their abilities or capabilities for the jobs they would have been considered for in their home countries.

Most of the developing countries still carry old systems whereby people compete regardless of background, and are selected based on merit. People are not put in some kind of pool which actually lessens opportunity to compete. My own back home country picks top scorers after taking their exams and offers training for the jobs. If they satisfy the training objectives, they get a final job offer.

Having said that, this does not mean that such “old-school” hiring practices are error-free, but at least they offer an equal opportunity to compete for everyone who qualifies academically.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling
Being a settlement coordinator at Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society in Prince George, I have had a wide range of experiences dealing with the government departments regarding our immigrant clients’ needs for settling in Canada. What has risen to the forefront of my mind is that some of the inefficiencies in this sector can be attributed to a lack of truly competitive hiring platform.

The other component is a more human failing which can be found in any workplace, but impacts immigrants specifically in seeking effective employment—and that is, for lack of a better word, disengagement. Otherwise, our immigrant clients would have far more frequent dealings with persons who are passionate, efficient and motivated to help or solve, their issue with a certain measure of enthusiasm.

Were are a more competitive hiring platform in place, this might bring greater numbers of immigrants into the government sector, and thus bring greater clarity and sensitivity to immigrant queries, and potential.

It all comes to one realization—while the glass ceiling for women has finally being recognized, an even stronger one exists for immigrants.

We must not forget that competition gathers passionate and motivated people and this would bring value to Canada’s government sector and beyond. A platform which engages that opportunity for everyone who would call Canada home—including immigrants—would help break that ceiling, and serve us all well.

Riffat Shahnawaz, CHRP Candidate, is a settlement coordinator with the Immigrant & Multicultural Services Society in Prince George, BC. Pursuing her CHRP designation, Riffat has a passion for bringing strategic change to the immigrant scenario in Canada, and plans to bring her work to underdeveloped countries in the future.

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