‘Bashing down that first hurdle:’ Ontario to end practice of employers asking for Canadian work experience
Ontario is planning to end the practice of employers asking for Canadian work experience in job ads or on application forms, according to David Piccini, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.
“Despite attracting some of the best and brightest to our province, we are falling short in making sure they can use their skills and education and work in the fields in which they’re passionate about and which they can contribute so much to in our economy,” he said.
Piccini announced the proposed legislation this morning at an event hosted by Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto. In his remarks, Piccini emphasized the government’s dedication to supporting immigrant integration into the workforce and “bashing down that first hurdle.”
He pointed to data that showed immigrants with a bachelor’s degree are twice as likely to be employed in roles that only require a high school degree compared to their Canadian counterparts.
With 250,000 jobs remaining unfilled across Ontario, the Minister framed the employment of internationally trained newcomers in their fields as not just a matter of social justice but an economic imperative that could increase the province’s GDP by as much as $100 billion.
Getting the message to employers
At the press conference Piccini was pressed about how the legislation would work practically — after all, employers can still read resumés and screen out applicants who don’t have Canadian experience, even if it’s not on the job posting.
“He said the government has a responsibility to “educate employers, and what I’m saying here is we’re taking leadership.”
He noted that the legislation would be contained under the Employment Standards Act.
“Today’s announcement is a first step. Do I think that today means that it’s done and the job is done? No,” he said. “We have an important continued collective responsibility to work with employers. But I put the line in the sand and said we care about competency, not about where you got that competency.”
His advice to employers who aren’t sure about a candidate’s qualifications is simple: “Bring them in for an interview.”
“Talk to them about their experience,” said Piccini. “We know many jobs have an important trial component to assess competency. But what we’ve heard far too often is that people don’t even get that shot to walk in the door and have that conversation.”
Changes to immigrant nominee program
Piccini said Ontario would be the first province to ban the requirement of Canadian experience, coming on the heels of previous legislation aimed at ending discriminatory practices in regulated professions and trades.
He also revealed enhancements to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP), which would expand eligibility to more international students from one-year college programs, helping to retain skilled individuals within the province. He also urged the federal government to allow Ontario to select a higher number of economic immigrants, emphasizing the province’s efficiency in processing these selections within 90 days.
“Connecting a newcomer with a job they’re qualified for means more than just a paycheque,” he said. “It makes them part of Ontario’s family and gives them a sense of meaning, dignity, purpose, and a new home.”
Sara Asalya, executive-director of Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto, introduced the minister and applauded the changes.
“As an immigrant myself, I experienced firsthand the many challenges and barriers faced by newcomers, especially when trying to access the labour market,” she said. “We’re often told that our foreign credentials don’t really matter. And that we don’t have the Canadian experience required to do the job.”
Lack of Canadian experience remains and continues to be the number one barrier hindering newcomers ability to access the labour market, said Asalya.
She called the announcement a “big leap forward in the right direction” to eliminate the systemic barriers facing newcomers, and thanked the province for their “strong leadership” and commitment to supporting the immigrant community.
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