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Educated and unemployed

Jobless rate for immigrants with degrees 4 times the national average

A new report is highlighting how tough it can be for university-educated immigrants to find employment in Canada. The unemployment rate for that group of immigrants was almost 14 per cent last year compared to 3.4 per cent for Canadian-born workers with a degree, said the report released Tuesday by the Community Foundations of Canada. It cites unpublished estimates from the Statistics Canada Labour Force survey.

The jobs situation got worse for university-educated immigrants compared to 2006, while their Canadian-born counterparts held their own, said Monica Patten, president and CEO of the group that released Canada’s Vital Signs 2010, an annual report looking at quality of life in this country. She said it’s “disheartening” to see the gap. “As our data tells us, and as our report says, the more education you have, the harder in fact it is,” Patten said from Ottawa. “It’s easy to get a job in trades or in services, so immigrants get scooped up for those kinds of jobs  . . . (It’s) much, much more challenging to get a job in Canada in a profession for which you were trained outside of Canada.”

Cristina Popescu, 34, is in that situation after arriving in Canada almost 2 1/2 years ago. She was a math teacher in Romania for about 12 years, and was equipped with a master’s degree in mathematics. Now, she’s working toward credentials that would allow her to teach in the public school system in Calgary, where she lives with her husband. She was told she needed to acquire 40 credits — about 13 courses, each one worth three credits.

Patten points out that programs such as the Immigrant Access Fund of Alberta can help by providing small low-interest loans to these educated immigrants to help them acquire needed accreditation and training to allow them to work in Canada. Popescu applied for and received a $5,000 loan, which enabled her to start taking required post-secondary classes, she said. “It was crucial because at that time, my husband — the company that he worked (for) at that time — went bankrupt,” she said, adding that the loan was the only way she could obtain money to take her courses.

And although she wishes she could be a teacher in the public system in Canada without taking additional courses, she’s not complaining. “We know we have to work hard to prove newcomers are worth it to be employed,” she said. Popescu’s husband, also from Romania, is employed again, creating computer software for an insurance company. He was to be sworn in as a Canadian citizen on Monday, she said.

Patten said the loan repayment success rate is very high for the Immigrant Access Fund and she’s calling for versions of the fund to be started in other parts of the country. She noted that on average, Canada accepts more than 240,000 immigrants a year, and these people often don’t have networks to help them find work. “And then you have the absence of accreditation … That’s very challenging, and we believe we can turn that around, this country can turn that around.”

Community Foundations of Canada is an umbrella organization for 170 community foundations that support charities, and provided $140 million to local organizations last year.

The Canadian Press

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