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Internationally-trained immigrants find alternative employment solutions and satisfaction in helping other newcomers


Lakshmi Hangalur came to Canada in 2003 from Singapore, with a background in Human Resources and dreams of working in her field.
She pursued HR certification in Ontario in the belief that Canadian credentials would help. It did not seem to make a difference. Determined to use her training and skills, Lakshmi began working in immigrant settlement services in Ontario. She has found satisfaction in helping other newcomers, and she still dreams of working in Human Resources.

“Give us the resources to build bridges so that Canada can fully harvest the talents we bring in through immigration,” she said.

Unable to become employed in their field, internationally trained immigrants are finding satisfaction in helping other newcomers navigate their way through their new life in Canada, according to a report released on June 20, 2011. The report, Rebuilding Professional Lives: Immigrant Professionals Working in the Ontario Settlement Sector, looks at the experience of internationally- trained immigrants who found employment in the field of immigrant settlement services.

“A growing number of immigrants are pursuing this alternative, even if it means giving up working in their original field and accepting work that pays less. These individuals have found a way to contribute to Canada and to help fellow immigrants, but at the end of the day immigrants need to be employed meaningfully for successful integration to occur,” said Adnan Türegün of Carle-ton University and principal researcher.

Based on a survey and interviews conducted between 2009 and 2010, the study looks at the experience of internationally trained immigrants who did not have the opportunity to practise their respective professions after immigrating, but acquired a new profession in the form of immigrant settlement work. Ironically, most entered this new field in the course of seeking help to enter their primary profession.
“I know from my own experience what people go through as newcomers. While fighting for successful immigrant integration, I am fighting for myself as well,” said one respondent quoted in the report.
While most felt overwhelmingly positive about working in this new field, the inability to practise their primary profession left many respondents feeling sad, demoralized, betrayed and outright angry at Canada’s immigration system.

“It’s like Boeing 747 pilots finding themselves driving a golf cart. Is there a connection? There is no connection,” said one respondent.
Another noted that “putting food on the table for my family and security, shelter, is the priority,” in explaining the choice to give up practising in their primary profession.

“Immigrants who choose to uproot themselves and their families to come to Canada are highly motivated and determined individuals, as we can see from this research. We have to stop squandering these gifts and do a better job of using immigrant talent to make our economy and our society stronger,” said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI).

The respondents made several recommendations in the course of the study, including encouraging other immigrants to ‘have a positive attitude in your quest for professional practice in Canada,’ and ‘be flexible and open-minded in your quest for professional practice’.
They also made several recommendations to address systemic challenges, including giving employers an incentive to hire and retain immigrant professionals.

The report contains several recommendations for a broad range of stakeholders including federal and provincial governments, professional accreditation bodies, immigrant and refugee-serving organizations, employers and for immigrants themselves. It was produced in collaboration with OCASI.

Learn more Full report at http://integration-net.ca and on www.ocasi.org. Contact: Amy Casipullai, Senior Policy and Communication Coordinator, OCASI. Tel: 416.524.4950 Email: amy@ocasi.org.

Posted: Aug 5, 2011

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