Newcomers See Employment Progress

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Windsor Star/Monica Wolfson

When cancer researcher Indrajit Sinha couldn’t find a job in Windsor, he made one for himself.

Sinha, 41, formed Biomedcore in late 2011 after spending a year trying to find work and almost going bankrupt.

He left his research position in Detroit because he wanted to work closer to home and was able to tap into local programs for entrepreneurs.

“If you ask for help, look for help, you’ll get it,” he said.

Sinha got aid from the small business centre, WEtech Alliance and landed a one-month work placement in a Windsor company.

“I built my company from Starbucks because I couldn’t afford the Internet at home,” he said. Coffee shop patrons, who later became good friends, bought him drinks. Biomedcore works with oncologists to find the best drugs for cancer patients.

Sinha spoke Tuesday at the Internationally Trained Professionals conference at the Caboto Club.

“I hope that is me too one day,” said Judith Obatusa, a communications professional who ran her own company in Nigeria. “He made a job for himself and other people.”

There were plenty of success stories at the conference, which was held to educate newcomers about different professional fields. Reaching out to natives of Germany is how Benjamin Fuehr, 36, got his job at Green Sun Rising. He came to Windsor from Hamburg with his Canadian wife in 2009 when the city was bleeding jobs. Fuehr didn’t know anyone but that didn’t stop the marketing professional. Eventually, through networking, he met the owner of the company where he is employed.

More than half of newcomers who arrive in Canada have a bachelor degree but have struggled to find employment in their fields.

There are many causes of underemployment: language barriers, the need for Canadian work experience and not having credentials and degrees recognized. But conditions appear to be improving.

“We know there is data out there that shows things are getting better for newcomers,” said Jacquie Rumiel, general manager of the YMCA and director of newcomer services. “There is still a challenge to find a job and get foreign experience recognized.”

Jean Augustine, a former federal cabinet minister from Etobicoke, said employment bridge programs have been successful, but more needs to be done. Augustine said despite progress, there are some professions that still have rules like a Canadian work-experience requirement that make it hard for a newcomer to get recognized.

“We’ve asked bodies to take that out,” said Augustine, who is Ontario’s fairness commissioner. She is head of an organization monitoring whether regulatory bodies have erected barriers for foreign-trained professionals or are practising what Augustine termed protectionism rather than protecting the public.

Canada will need to get serious about helping immigrants integrate into the Canadian workplace because they will be needed to re-energize the Canadian economy, said Glen Hodgson, chief economist with the Conference Board of Canada. In order to maintain a two per cent economic growth, Canada will need to absorb 350,000 immigrants a year by 2030.

“If you don’t have a vibrant workforce, you won’t have economic growth,” he said.