Canadian employers, who often do not know how to assess education and work experience from other countries, may require or prefer you to have experience working in Canada. Lack of local market experience can pose a challenge for newcomers, but there are ways to overcome some of these challenges.
We have prepared a Pre-Arrival Checklist of valuable information that will make arriving in Canada as smooth a process as possible.
When an employer tells you that you have no “Canadian experience,” they often mean that they’re not sure if you’re going to fit into their workplace. They are unsure that you are familiar with Canadian codes and standards of practice or that you have the communication skills, etiquette or interpersonal savvy to be an asset to their firm. Employers want friendly, assertive professionals with excellent communication skills who will fit in and become natural leaders. You can overcome this barrier and acquire a good understanding of how a Canadian workplace operates by volunteering, meeting people, having a mentor, getting an internship or job shadowing.
Volunteering is an important part of Canadian society and lifestyle. It helps you settle in faster, make friends, practice skills and even it might lead you — in some cases — to a job at the organization where you are volunteering or somewhere else. You can find hundreds of volunteering opportunities in community organizations and other non-profits in your area by contacting your local volunteer centre. You can also ask your relatives, friends or colleagues for volunteer opportunities that suit your skills and interests. You should consider volunteering in your community as it is an important tool that can help you integrate faster into society and workforce. Even one afternoon of volunteering a week would be helpful.
Another effective way to acquire Canadian experience is through internships. Career Edge is an innovative internship program that allows you to apply for paid internships at Canada’s leading private, public or non-profit sector employers. The program regularly posts internship opportunities and offers paid internships of four, six, nine or twelve months for recent immigrants:
- with fluency in English
- with at least a Bachelor’s level education
- with a minimum of three years of international work experience
The program is run by Career Edge, a not-for-profit social enterprise that has managed over 9,200 paid internships across Canada since 1996.
If you plan to settle in Ontario and apply for a P.Eng. license, you may be eligible to be registered in PEO’s Engineering Internship (EIT) Program. The EIT Program is designed for applicants who are employed in an engineering capacity. It is not a job search or placement program, but assists in understanding the licensing requirements, particularly the experience required to qualify for a P.Eng. license, and offers you the opportunity to obtain detailed, confidential work experience reviews from the EIT Program Manager. At your request, PEO will review your experience upon changing jobs, upon completion of any temporary work assignment, and after obtaining your first six months of engineering experience in Canada. The program also encourages you to become involved in the profession and to participate in PEO’s chapter activities, insurance and investment plans.
It’s important to find someone who can coach or mentor you and share information about the engineering industry in Canada. Many professional associations and some companies offer this type of “buddy” program, where a seasoned member guides a junior member.
Many immigrant-serving agencies have mentorship programs where they team up a newcomer with someone in their professional field.
Triec Mentoring Partnership brings together recent skilled immigrants and established professionals in occupation-specific mentoring relationships. The program is managed by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.
You can also look for mentoring opportunities online by registering for sites such as MentorCity.
Not exactly a mentorship or a volunteer opportunity, job shadowing is an interesting way to get some inside information on your industry in Canada, know about how the Canadian workplace operates and possibly gain some good networking contacts. This can last anywhere from an hour to an entire day. Job shadowing is a great way to find out what an hour or a day on your job is like in Canada. It might be hard to find job shadowing opportunities in big engineering firms; try searching for such opportunities in small to medium engineering companies.