TAREQUE ISLAM, 45, moved to Canada after a successful career as a veterinarian in Bangladesh. Today, he is learning English at Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services to improve his chances of finding work. The community agency assists newcomers find their feet in their new country.
On paper, Tareque Islam possessed an impeccable record: an under-grad degree in agriculture, a DVB in veterinary medicine, years of experience as a general veterinary practitioner in Bangladesh and specialized knowledge of poultry medicine.
Yet, Islam and his wife were worried about the future of their two children. The family decided to move from Bangladesh for their children to receive good education, to enjoy the opportunity and freedom Canada can offer.
“I wanted them to have a good education, a good life,” the 45-year-old says.
In 2009, the family left Dhaka and arrived in Canada.
“When I decided to come to Canada, I hoped to get a job in my field. But I quickly learned I need more experience – ‘Canadian experience’ – a Canadian education and a licence to practise,” Islam says.
Like many new immigrants to Canada, he was caught off guard.
According to Statistics Canada, 42 per cent of immigrants who have landed in Canada since 2001 held, at minimum, a university degree. The same document, titled Immigrants Working in Regulated Occupations, written by Danielle Zietsma, states, “Immigrants who had been in Canada for less than 10 years had higher unemployment rates and lower employment rates than those born in Canada. Furthermore, many of these immigrants were unable to find jobs in their chosen fields.”
Islam also faced issues with his credentials. Veterinary Science is a regulated profession and only those with a Canadian licence are eligible to operate in Canada. Again, according to Statistics Canada, only 24 per cent of foreign trained professionals are employed in their regulated field after they arrive from another country.
For Islam and his wife it meant that they had to start working odd jobs in their Scarborough neighbourhood.
“For a while, I worked as a cook, even though I had no experience in this,” he laughs. “Right now, I’m unemployed.”
Unemployment aside, Islam quickly grew fond of his new country.
“Canada is a country of freedom. Everybody is free to express themselves. The education system is so good, the health care system is strong and the law enforcement is good – and there’s no corruption.”
He quickly realized he needed to improve his English skills and enrolled in the Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) at Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services (PICS) – a charitable organization that provides services for new immigrants to help them adapt and integrate into Canada.
“I’ve learned to develop my language skills,” Islam says. “I learned a lot about non-verbal communication and language for the workplace.”
More than 15,000 people used PICS services in 2009-2010. Many, like Islam, attended LINC classes. Others enrolled in job-specific language training for internationally-trained professionals and were provided unpaid work placements, in partnership with many private businesses throughout the Greater Toronto Area so that they could get the necessary Canadian work experience employers desire. PICS also offer counseling and settlement services, an employment resource centre and groups and clubs for newcomers.
With his English quickly improving, Islam dreams of returning to school, becoming a licensed veterinarian in Canada and of the day when life no longer will be a struggle.
“One Bangladeshi friend of mine is now a veterinarian in Canada. He struggled here for seven years before he could work in the field but now he is happy,” Tareque says.