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Pro Post: Are You an Underemployed Skilled Immigrant? You Have Options

July 1, 2014
5 mins
A man sits at a table working on his laptop computer

Are you a skilled immigrant looking for work in Canada? Experience requirements can be challenging hurdles - but you do have options. Pro poster Pracheer Saran shares the top resources for career-bridging programs and educational services for newcomers.

Pursuing the Canadian Dream

When Gihan Weerasinghe moved from Sri Lanka to Canada as a landed immigrant, he thought his good days had begun. Armed with experience as a chartered accountant, and considering the high demand for accounting professionals worldwide, he thought landing a job would be a cakewalk. He was instead in for a rude surprise when he found his expertise counted for little and that he lacked so-called "Canadian" experience. To support his family, including three children between seven and 12 years of age, both Gihan and his wife did odd jobs in call centres and retail stores. Three and a half months after moving to Canada and with no real job in hand, the Weerasinghes were debating whether to move back to Sri Lanka when a ray of hope emerged. In one of the government-provided classes Gihan took for immigrants looking for jobs in their field, an employment counsellor suggested he take bridging courses provided by several universities and colleges in Canada. However, pursuing the courses would be a monetary challenge; a large chunk of the family's savings was already going toward accommodation. and providing for a family of five.

After consulting with his education counsellor and doing his own research, Gihgan considered applying for the Ontario Student Association Program (OSAP) but knew he could be waiting a long time before receiving funds. And it wasn't just the money - Gihan felt short on time, and wanted to see the other options available to new immigrants. Going to a traditional bank wasn't an option, as interest rates were high, and his credit history was lacking.

Micro-Loan Options

He stumbled upon a second option while searching the internet: the Immigrant Access Fund (IAF), which runs programs operated by non-profit societies for skilled immigrants. They provide microloans to people like Gihan who, because of a lack of collateral, employment and credit history, could not access mainstream credit. These short-term loans (two years or less) can be used for studying or supporting oneself while attending school for the occupation you had worked in your home country. Gihan fulfilled the eligibility criteria, which required applicants to be a permanent resident, a Canadian citizen, a protected person, or a provincial nominee living in a territory or a province other than Quebec and British Columbia. The company provides loans of up to $10,000 with an interest rate of 4.5% annually (Bank of Canada Prime rate plus 1.5%, set quarterly). Their offices are located in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina. For other cities, they use Skype, Face Time, and or phone to reach out to their clients.

Bridging Programs and Work Resources For Immigrants

There are several similar programs designed to aid immigrants looking for work across Canada. For example, if you live in Winnipeg (or plan to move there as a skilled immigrant), you may qualify for Recognition Counts, a two-year program providing microloans of up to $10,000 to low-income group individuals and skilled immigrants who were dentists, engineers or other skilled workers in their home countries. The program also includes career and financial counselling and guidance for re-accreditation and training requirements. There is no loan fee, a fixed interest rate of prime plus 2%, and can be paid back over five years, with repayment and interest kicking in within six months of finishing the program, or 90 days after acquiring a job in their chosen field - whichever comes first. In addition, there are several scholarships, internships and apprenticeship grants for Canadians, which though competitive, are still out there and can be availed. The government also has a Resettlement Assistance Program and an Immigration Loan Program for people seeking refugee or asylum status in Canada. These are just some of the provisions available to new skilled immigrants stuck in underemployment. They just require a little research and determination. If Gihan did it - so can you!

About the Author: Pracheer Saran

I am a travel enthusiast and a freelance writer who loves to write about my escapades, from travel to beer – but when it comes to finances, I still had a lot to learn. I first moved to Canada five years ago, and as a new immigrant, getting a credit card to building a credit history was a mammoth task for me. I mostly learned from trial and error – and am still learning! There is some homework a new immigrant can start a few months before moving to Canada to ensure a smoother settlement. So fasten your seat belts and join me for an informative ride as I share the challenges of managing my daily finances, hunting for my first job, battling high car insurance rates, buying my first house and securing a mortgage.

Pracheer Saran

Pracheer Saran is a travel enthusiast and a freelance writer who loves to write about his escapades, from travel to beer – but when it comes to finances, he still had a lot to learn. Pracheer first moved to Canada five years ago and found that as a new immigrant, getting a credit card to building a credit history was a mammoth task for him. He mostly learned from trial and error – and is still learning!

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