Employers, immigrants must figure out how to close ‘skills mismatch’: expert

Too many immigrants ending up in jobs where they're 'overskilled,' says Conference Board CEO

Employers, immigrants must figure out how to close ‘skills mismatch’: expert

The Conference Board of Canada is calling on employers and immigrants to work together to address an ongoing “skills mismatch” in the Canadian economy.

While employers have said “again and again” that they can’t find workers with the skills they need to grow their company, there’s also a huge influx of newcomers who are “ending up in jobs where they're over skilled,” says Susan Black, president and CEO, Conference Board of Canada in an interview with BNN Bloomberg.

One thing that causes the skills mismatch is that small- and medium-sized businesses “don't always have the resources” do assess skills or “to figure out what credentialing should look like” and “that's a challenge,” says Black during the BNN Bloomberg interview.

Another problem is that Canadian employers are requiring newcomers to have Canadian working experience before they hire them, says Black.

“The fact of the matter is, there's no common definition for Canadian experience. And there's absolutely no evidence that Canadian experience gets people to be better workers for you,” she says.

And while immigrants from India are preferring to go to Canada over the U.S., ComIT.org previously reported that over half (51.4 per cent) of recent and employed immigrants say they report to a manager who is less qualified but Caucasian.

One of the consequences of skills mismatch is that immigrants end up leaving Canada after just a short stay, says Black in the article.

“We actually did a study recently called the ‘Leaky Bucket’, and we analyzed cohorts of permanent residents going back to the 80s to see how many were leaving. And what we're seeing is an increased number leaving Canada. 

“So they're coming here for a period of time, and then they're moving on. That doesn't bode well, because that shrinks our labor pool, which is a problem for productivity and prosperity.”

Foreign job seekers’ interest in Canadian employers took a plunge in the first quarter of this year following a surge in 2023, according to a report from Indeed.

How to solve skills mismatch

Finding how to create these inclusive environments and get the right skills match is really important, says Black in the Bloomberg report.

One thing that employers can do is to hire based on competencies and skills, she says.

“Be very specific that way. Don't look for unicorns.” 

Black also says that employers must understand that if they’re going to hire and they want their pool of talent to be really broad, they will have to hire newcomers. 

However, these workers may need certain accommodations from employers. 

They “may come with some language challenges..., they may come from a different culture, [and] they're gonna need some help understanding the norm.” 

Training these workers will make “a big difference,” says Black in the article.

In February, President of the Treasury Board Anita Anand announced the first steps in the Action Plan for Black Public Servants.

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