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Career strategies for new immigrants

When we came to Canada 45 years ago, my husband and I had nothing but our undergraduate degrees from South Africa and a wonderful out-of-town relative who took us in for our first few weeks.

At that time it was possible to apply from within Canada for landed immigrant status.

Being very young and adventurous, we asked our relatives to drop us off in Toronto; we found a room and started looking for jobs, any jobs.

A friend and his wife again took us in for a few more weeks and we found entry-level jobs in Toronto for which we were very grateful.

We were able to rent our own apartment and soon our landed status came through.

A year later, while working as a telephone operator at Bell Telephone, I was encouraged by two older immigrant women who said, “You have a degree. Why don’t you go to Teacher’s College?”

I am grateful to those women for their advice.

Both my husband and I became teachers and were very fortunate to have found teaching jobs.

Today immigrants are not that fortunate.

So many highly qualified professionals leave their countries, sell their assets and come to Canada believing that their credentials will be recognized here.

However, regulatory bodies here are hard to navigate and result in so many shattered lives.

When we go overseas we admire the beautiful buildings and when we are sick overseas we rely on the doctors in those countries.

Yet, it appears that when those same engineers, doctors and other highly skilled professionals fly to Canada, their credentials fall into the ocean.

As a former teacher, principal, superintendent of Schools and vice-president at a community college, I have mentored people to try to help them open career doors.

I believe that we must all “lift as we climb” which is the great motto of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) in America.

By lifting as we climb we not only create opportunities for other immigrants, we improve the lives of future generations of Canadians.

Who knows, amongst the people we lift may be the chemist who will find the cure for a dreaded disease; or the engineer who will resolve an encroaching environmental issue that threatens our planet.

In this column I will try to share some strategies for new immigrants looking to enter careers and I invite your questions.

– Dr Vicki Bismilla

• Dr Vicki Bismilla is a retired Superintendent of Schools and retired college Vice-President, Academic, and Chief Learning Officer.

Posted: Oct 31, 2016

June 2017

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