Step into a taxi in a major Canadian city, and there’s a good chance the person behind the wheel has a higher level of education than you do. I’ve been driven around by doctors, engineers, lawyers and programmers. Even though they come from diverse backgrounds, I’ve noticed two common threads in their tragic stories.
The first, and the most difficult to overcome from a co-ordination perspective, is that their degrees and certificates of learning aren’t recognized by Canadian institutions. That makes some sense … but surely there’s a way to fast track an established, credentialed practitioner of any profession into the Canadian mainstream, even if at a less than ideal position? Or do we really believe our interests, especially our nationwide skills shortage, are best served by having doctors and engineers driving taxis?
Their next problem is almost trivial when compared to the complexities of verifying professional certifications. Nevertheless, based on hundreds of conversations over the years, I’d suggest it is the number one reason why foreign nationals fail to find work in Canada. What is this huge hurdle? Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Honourable Judy Sgro, states that, “language difficulties are the primary problem facing any immigrant attempting to enter the Canadian workforce.”
I write and speak for a living, so I cannot argue against the importance of good communications skills. These skills are so important that even though English is my mother tongue, my desk is piled high with well-thumbed dictionaries, thesauri, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and dozens of other books on writing and the art of oratory and rhetoric.
Communication skills are important, but they are not the only measure of human potential — unless of course you’re trying to get hired by a Canadian manager. That’s a generalization, but based upon numerous examples, it’s not unreasonably unfair. (If you don’t place yourself in that category, you can prove it later.)
For an example of “language discrimination” in IT, turn to the Marketplace section of this issue. You’ll notice an ad by Rashel Ebrahim. That ad has run in every issue of ComputerWorld Canada for the past year. She still hasn’t found an IT job.
Without even looking at her r