By TOM GODFREY
Everyone seems to know of a new immigrant who was a doctor or engineer back home and is now driving a taxi in Toronto.
City officials to their credit have heard the similar plight of many newcomers to Toronto and are working through a myriad of programs to get as many of them trained and working in the field.
Many of the hundreds of new citizens being sworn in during Canada Day ceremonies last week will eventually settle in Toronto.
And it is not surprising that members of City Council were last week updated on Newcomer Employment Initiatives being undertaken by staff to get new immigrants working.
The report was presented by the City’s Employment and Social Services and will be back before Council for a vote next month.
City officials have realized that newcomers have a hard time finding jobs when they arrive here. And this is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, with residents here from 188 countries who speak over 140 languages.
The City of Toronto has made jobs and retraining a priority and is committed to providing programs and services that meet the needs of its diverse residents.
“As a priority group newcomers benefit from targeted programs and services that lead to more equitable outcomes,” the report said.
Councillors were reminded that the immigration process can be a challenging experience even in a city as welcoming as Toronto.
“Newcomers may be coming from difficult circumstances such as war and violence,” the Councillors were told. “Others may arrive from countries with very different political systems, civic institutions and services.”
Newcomers complement the skills of the domestic labour force, bring new investment and innovative practices, help support increased trade with their countries of origin and enhance cultural diversity.
The new arrivals for the most part leave their families at home and may not see them again for years. They also face many other challenges compared to Canadian-born residents.
“A disproportionate number of newcomers in Toronto are either not getting jobs or not getting jobs that match their qualifications,” the report said. “The obstacles to suitable employment for newcomers are abundant and complex.”
The City operates 19 Employment Centres that offer resources and services to all residents. Staff there helps with career planning, job searching and connect residents to jobs and other education and training services in the community.
The City is also involved in programs such as Employment Ontario, to help immigrants; the OntarioBridge Training Program to help skilled newcomers get their license; or the Federal Internship for newcomers, among others.
Yet, study after study has identified a number of the challenges facing newcomers such as language barriers, credential recognition, a lack of soft skills and limited Canadian work experience.
These barriers have led to poor labour market outcomes among newcomers in Toronto, including underemployment, lower incomes relative to Canadian-born residents and precarious or unsustainable employment.
Not all newcomers have the luxury of time and resources to obtain job re-accreditation or taking added courses in a credential recognition process that can take years.
City Council has stepped up to the plate to help the new arrivals settle in. It is something that will be better for all residents in the long run, including your local cabbie.