Hot resumés can’t thaw Canada’s cold shoulder [newcomers finding work] – GTA
Published On Fri Feb 12 2010.   By Joe Fiorito, City Columnist

Dee showed up for the get-together at Maggie and Plamen’s place with her two kids in tow; money’s tight, no point paying for a sitter.

While she talked with her friends, I listened and took notes and I also did something useful: I taught her 6-year-old how to thumb-wrestle.

Quick study, that kid.

Dee is a charter member of a group of newcomers, professionals from all over the world, who met in Toronto on a government-sponsored course designed to help them find work.

Alas, most of them have yet to find work, and so they get together to support each other as they try to find their way.

An aside: Dee is Singhalese, but she said Tamils have been the most helpful as she tries to land on her feet; that is the genius of Toronto.

There was good news in the group: Sasha, here from Russia, told the others that he’d found a job. The others were dumbfounded when he said he was not asked for “Canadian experience.”

Those two words …

Sasha said, “In England, in Germany, they don’t ask if you have experience in that country when you apply for a job.” He should know. He has lived and worked in those countries.

Sid, another member of the group, agreed with him. “It’s only Australia, New Zealand and Canada where they ask.”

He, too, should know.

At the moment, all the members of the group have resumés floating around the city, not that resumés are a big help. Plamen, a strapping fellow, said he’d seen a note on a bulletin board and had applied for a job stacking boxes in a supermarket; no luck.

When strapping fellows who are willing to work are having trouble finding it, what good is a resumé?

Dee said, “Survival jobs. Those I have not tried. Industrial relations, that’s my area.”

How’s her search going? Did the job-search course do her any good?

She said, “When you’re new, you don’t know how the system works. The job coaches underestimate our intellect. They communicate in a condescending way. They want you to do what they think is best for you. I was told to take a job working 5 p.m. to midnight at a call centre. I have two children. I was told, `If you’re desperate, you have to make lifestyle changes.'”

Kids are not a lifestyle.

She said, “I wonder if there’s a way to measure what has been done, if all these programs for newcomers are working. I’ve had experience with two agencies. They’re interested in numbers to show how many they’ve served, but their mandate …”

Her point? It would be useful to know how many newcomers actually do find work as a result of the help of these agencies.

Dee said, and they all agreed, that the organizations set up to help them do not seem interconnected, and they seem to compete, rather than cooperate, with each other.

She also said, “We all came here with a substantial amount of money. I don’t want to go on social assistance.” Some may have to.

Maggie said, “I’m a historian with a degree from the U.S. If you force me to take a survival job, I’m just cheap labour. I expect to be skilled labour.” She took a deep breath. “I can’t go back. I’m stuck. There has to be a more efficient way.”

And then Sasha piped up.

He said, “In Sweden there is a law: each company with over 60 employees has to hire at least one person with a disability. So, here, why not a law: each company of 60 employees or more has to engage a newcomer.”


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