The COVID-19 crisis has underlined the ongoing shortage of skilled professionals in a variety of critical fields, including healthcare and engineering. For instance, the shortage of healthcare workers is a global phenomenon and is predicted to worsen in the coming years. Worldwide demand for skilled professionals is fiercely competitive.
One of Canada’s greatest competitive advantages is its ability to attract the most skilled professionals as immigrants; more than 54% of new immigrants arriving between 2011-16, aged 35-44, had at least a bachelor’s degree. Skilled immigrants are eager to work in their fields and disciplines of training and to offer their skills to help Canada cope with the current crisis.
Unfortunately, professional immigrants are increasingly under-employed. Statistics show that internationally trained applicants continue to be under-represented among those accepted into the professions, suggesting persistent disadvantage in licensing and professional employment. Newcomers often have no viable pathway to employment in their field, and their skills are wasted.
The devaluation of foreign credentials is one of the most often-cited reasons for the underemployment of immigrants. The Green Party of Canada advocates a stronger system for evaluating the education and training credentials of immigrants, with the goal of speeding up accreditation and expanding professional opportunities for new Canadians. Experts have also called for significant improvement in training programs and regulations designed to ensure fair access to licensing.
The COVID-19 crisis should provide us with extra motivation to make the systemic changes that will leave Canada less vulnerable in the future. This must include correcting the systemic barriers newcomer professionals face so that their skills and training can be put to use.