Talent testing allows Canada not to waste the skills of new immigrants

posted on December 13, 2018

By Vancouver Sun |

This week, countries came together in Morocco to sign a global compact to improve co-operation on international migration. Canada was central in drafting the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, a non-binding, co-operative framework intended to prompt better managed migration.

The pact’s objectives are comprehensive and include actions to strengthen the security of our borders and create opportunities for immigrants to find their place in the labour market — two critical pieces to maintaining Canadians’ confidence in our immigration system. As Canada commits to accepting nearly one million immigrants over the next three years, many of the pact’s objectives can contribute to the growth of the Canadian economy and labour force.

Canada currently under-uses the talents skilled-immigrants bring to this country. Estimates by the Royal Bank of Canada have shown that this devaluing of immigrant talent can cost Canada upwards of $30 billion per year — 2.1 per cent of our GDP. The pact’s commitment to creating inclusive labour markets and promoting the full participation of migrant workers in the formal economy should remind policy-makers of the need to help employers recognize and connect with the talented immigrants who are coming to — and already in — Canada.

Competency assessments like the Immigrant Employment Council of B.C.’s Facilitating Access to Skilled Talent (FAST), created in partnership with industry leaders like the B.C. Institute of Technology, BioTalent Canada and the Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada, can help newcomers find jobs that make full use of their skills.

Early results show that 65 per cent of FAST participants who had arrived in Canada found work in their field within eight weeks of arrival. This year alone, this cohort will earn a median salary of more than $60,000 — a significant increase over the $24,000 median income newcomers typically earn one year after arrival. Higher earnings are better for the newcomer, their family and for Canada’s economic growth.

The compact’s commitment to encourage signatories to recognize international skills, qualifications and competencies helps employers capitalize on immigrant talent. Programs like FAST assess what migrants know and compare it to Canadian industry standards. By focusing on competencies, employers can recognize immigrant talent, streamline hiring practices and avoid having to decipher international credentials that may not be relevant to the job.

Much of the conversation surrounding the compact has focused on border security and the humanitarian impact it will have. While these are important issues, we must not lose sight of the fact that Canada’s economy can grow through this compact. Strategic investments that help newcomers enter the labour market more quickly and into jobs more suited to the skills they bring will be a boon for Canada’s economy.

Patrick MacKenzie is CEO of the Immigrant Employment Council of B.C.

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