Ukrainians in Canada: workplaces are welcoming, but newcomers are overqualified – National

Viacheslav Samsonenko needs at least two years of experience to work as a professional engineer in Canada.

Therefore, like many newcomers, he signs up for jobs that are lower than his qualifications and works hard to get promoted.

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Samsonenko, who immigrated to Canada last May after fleeing the war in Ukraine, knew his 20 years of work experience in the field wouldn’t help him there.

However, he managed to find a job in the same industry within a month of arriving in Canada.

“I’m happy to be here in Canada and do what I love,” said Samsonenko, who works as an estimator for a British Columbia-based construction company.

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He said it’s not difficult to find work in the industry you want, but it will take some time to become a professional civil engineer in Canada. He needs to write a series of tests and keep gaining experience.

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Samsonenko’s situation is nothing special. Immigration officials say newcomers often struggle to find meaningful jobs that match their qualifications and previous work experience.

“The bottom line is that[for many employers]they lack Canadian experience,” said Darrell Pinto, employment director for Jumpstart Refugee Talent, a refugee-led nonprofit.

Newcomers often feel a missed opportunity, he said. Lack of soft skills and cultural integration are among the biggest problems employers have in accepting newcomers into the profession, he added.

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Equivalence of educational qualifications is another barrier that employers need to understand.

Pinto said employers don’t realize that some foreign universities “are far superior to Canadian universities in the quality of their graduates.”

“Many newcomers tell me that the US is much more open and welcomes their differences compared to the slightly closed Canadian market.

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Viktoria Krakowska moved to New Brunswick last August after fleeing a war that reached her hometown of Odessa, about 475 kilometers south of the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Krakowska and her husband were both lawyers and ran law firms in Ukraine. Soon she realized that her law degree was not recognized in Canada. Instead, she landed a job in finance through networking.

She said her husband is taking English classes in Fredericton and is preparing to change jobs.

She said there are plenty of opportunities to try new things in Canada, but getting another law degree may not be realistic for her and her husband.

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And that is true for many immigrants to Canada.

Despite being young and well-educated, immigrants have a harder time finding jobs that match their qualifications than Canadians, according to a report from the Royal Bank of Canada this week.

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But Pinto said the experience of Ukrainians who came to Canada after last year’s Russian invasion was unlike any other wave of refugees.

Pinto said the government responded innovatively to the crisis in Eastern Europe.

“That gave them a softer landing when they arrived in Canada.”

Faster timelines for processing open work permits under special programs, faster resettlement services, and increased support for finding jobs in the community have worked well for new Ukrainian entrants, helping to attract newcomers from other countries. It may also serve as a template for new entrants in the future.

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Patrick MacKenzie, CEO of British Columbia’s nonprofit immigrant employment council, agreed.

Mackenzie recalled a recent instance of a Ukrainian getting a job at a bakery in Vancouver before coming to Canada.

“Ukrainians are welcome in the workplace and employers realize they are contributing very quickly,” he said, noting that Canadians’ high awareness of the war in Ukraine also played a role. He added that it could be done.

“We hope that employers will broadly apply that lesson to all newcomers to Canada to improve the underemployment that many immigrants face,” he said.

Since March 2022, the Canadian government has received more than 860,000 applications from Ukraine and nearly 170,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada, government sites show.

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But language remains the biggest barrier, especially for professionals, says Kael Campbell of Victoria, BC-based Red Seal Recruitment Solutions.

But some recruiters are beginning to challenge the Canadian experience, he said.

“You either have work experience or you don’t,” Campbell said.

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In the latest Ukrainian wave, Campbell said recruiters are working to educate Canadian employers about the opportunities newcomers bring to the table.

“(We) encourage employers to hire Ukrainians and be open to sharing their knowledge.”

This article was produced with financial support from the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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