Challenges and Strategies for Newcomers in the Environmental Sector

Angie - Test Knowles, | October-07-11

Settling In - ECO Canada


It’s official: Canada is currently the top country in the world to do business and a major destination for skilled immigrants. In 2008 alone, the nation received 250,000 permanent residents, 200,000 temporary foreign workers and 80,000 international students, according to a recent annual report from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

This strong influx of skilled professionals is good news for the environmental sector, as anticipated retirements create a labour shortage for over 100,000 positions within the next decade. Yet despite the intensifying need for more environmental workers with the required education and qualifications, many highly-skilled newcomers to Canada face unemployment and underemployment.

In one study, 60% of employed immigrants did not work at the same occupation level that they held before coming to Canada, regardless of their level of education.1 Furthermore, the unemployment rate in 2007 for recently-landed immigrants with a university degree was 10.7%, compared to an unemployment rate of 2.4% amongst their Canadian-born counterparts.

What are the reasons for this frustrating situation and, most importantly, what strategies could help solve it?

To explore this issue, ECO Canada’s 2010 Labour Mobility Between the EU and Canada examined the major challenges that newcomers encounter in securing environmental employment, as well as recommendations to reduce these obstacles.


What are the Challenges?

Finding equitable employment can be difficult for new immigrants due to:

• Insufficient foreign credential recognition of qualifications, including international education and experience
• Requirements for strong language proficiency in either English or French
• Complex licensure requirements for certain regulated professions
• Inadequate institutional means to facilitate the effective utilization of immigrant skills
• Lack of awareness amongst small businesses of the benefits of hiring internationally-trained workers
• A need for more pre-arrival supports and bridging programs to provide Canadian work experience and skills
• The difficulty of obtaining reliable information on registration processes and workplace expectations prior to emigrating
• Professional association protectionism, in which associations make it hard to recognize foreign credentials to reduce competition


What are the Strategies?

To mitigate the problem of unemployment and underemployment for newcomers to Canada, several respondents in the Labour Mobility study provided key recommendations. These included:


• Improving the Foreign Credential Recognition (FCR) process
• Providing “right and clear information” to foreign workers and Canadian employers
• Improving the awareness of small and medium enterprises about the benefits of using foreign skills and their capacity to assess and hire internationally-trained workers
• Providing pre-arrival supports overseas, such as the Canadian Immigration Integration Project (CIIP) pilot project
• Providing bridging programs (e.g., skill and language upgrading, job internships)
• Reducing the federal backlog of skilled workers
• Expanding the Canadian Experience Class program, which granted facilitated permanent residence to those studying or working temporarily in Canada for two years


For employers in particular, the Labour Mobility report identified a number of targeted strategies that could help environmental employers tap into the tremendous potential of internationally-trained workers, such as:

• Online/Website recruiting with international outreach
• Advertising that targets overseas offices, immigrant centers, and areas with high concentration of immigrants
• Referrals/word of mouth
• Job postings that explicitly state the company’s promotion of employment equity
• Partnerships with foreign governments or universities


Developing a strategy to ensure equitable employment for recent immigrants is crucial, since newcomer unemployment and underemployment negatively affects job-seekers and employers alike.


1Justin Ikura, “Foreign Credential Recognition and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada,” Canadian Issues, Spring 2007, p. 17.


What are your thoughts and tips on the challenges that recent immigrants face in the environmental sector?