Why immigrant engineers aren’t finding jobs

“Asymmetries and misalignments.”

According to a recent survey by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) – there are “asymmetries and misalignments” between the way employers recruit, and how internationally trained engineers connect with them.

Language skills appear to be a real sticking point, as employers are skeptical of how internationally trained engineers (“ITEs”) gauge their own language skills.  Canadian Consulting Engineer reported that only 10% of employers believe that job applicants are accurately self-assessing their language skills.

As so much screening of new recruits is done by computer software, 80% of ITEs don’t even reach the interview stage, and 75% don’t make it past a telephone interview.  The report says that only 3 to 5 candidates out of a hundred will make it to a face-to-face interview.  This might explain why the study found that of 167 internationally trained engineers, only a quarter were employed.  Even for ITEs who had been in Canada for 3-5 years, the study found that most weren’t working in engineering.

Where are these “asymmetries” then?

The gap seems to be in what employers want to see in candidates, versus how internationally trained engineers present themselves.  The study found many ITEs place a strong emphasis on their technical qualifications – while potential employers are looking to see their actual experience.  In the study, employers noted that a knowledge of codes, regulations and software was very important – as well as the elusive “cultural fit”. In an interview situation, potential employers might pay more attention to how the candidate answers non-technical questions, and candidates sometimes find it difficult to answer the “behavioural” questions.

How can both sides overcome the gap?  The study showed that 24 of the 77 employers surveyed had used formal “bridging programs” – specifically intended to introduce ITEs to the Canadian market, and give them a chance to meet and network with engineering employers. These programs appear to be effective – as 80% employers who used such a program ended up hiring participants into full-time positions.

The gap is real – however, organizations such as OSPE are working at bridging the divide, for the benefit of both internationally trained engineers as well as Canada’s engineering industry.


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