World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. The weekly roundup includes research, stories, and events of interest to the Canadian immigration and settlement community. This content has been created by WES and is reproduced here with their permission, in partnership.
Over the past two decades, the international student population in Canada has grown significantly and they are currently the largest temporary migrant group in Canada. Canadian public policies have strongly encouraged growth in this population with a focus on the attainment of Canadian education, work experience and a potential source of skilled workers and future permanent residents. However there is a gap between the expectations and lived experience of international students in Canada. Due to their temporary resident status, international students are ineligible for the suite of federally funded settlement services that offer free language, employment training and additional resources to support newcomers in Canada. As a result, many do not find support services they need. This author argues that as the government plans for post-pandemic recovery using the “build back better” agenda, it is time to introduce a policy framework to provide services to international students and graduates so they can access help and support to fully participate in the Canadian economy and society.
Current government policies focus on the attraction of international students but fail to draw attention to post-arrival success for students. This overlooks the social and economic challenges international students may face and in turn, the supports they need throughout their academic journey and post-graduation transition. Additionally, the author notes that there is no coordination between government and PSIs to provide services addressing the social and labour market challenges and needs of international students. Despite the increasing reliance on international students for revenue, PSIs international student offices often do not have the adequate resources and staff to support students with their range of needs. Thus a collaborative partnership between governments, PSIs and settlement agencies is essential in creating a sustainable infrastructure that can support and respond to the services needs of international students in Canada.
In Canada, more than 400,000 new jobs have been added to the labour force since the onset of the pandemic, yet more than one million jobs remain vacant. As labour shortages tighten across Canada, more needs to be done to include the participation of marginalized populations in the workforce including women, older Canadians and newcomers to Canada. This report emphasizes that recently arrived Canadians should be an ideal focus for labour market integration as many come in their prime working years and are highly educated. However, the reality is that newcomers are less likely to occupy positions that are commensurate to their training and skills. 2016 Census data suggests that less than 40 percent of immigrants are in a position that requires their university credentials versus 60 per cent of the Canadian born population. Several factors contribute to this reality including credential recognition challenges, language and cultural barriers in the labour market which result in a underutilization of skills and education. Nevertheless, this continued education-occupation mismatch of recent immigrants is concerning and narrowing this gap could significantly benefit the Canadian economy. But in order to do so, more collaboration across government, private sector, post secondary institutions, and social impact sectors is necessary.
International students are a major part of Canada’s immigration strategy. They have become a vital resource for post-secondary institutions across the country whereby international students account for nearly a third of tutition fees paid annually. With tightening labour markets and an aging workforce, international students are considered ideal candidates for permanent residency in Canada. Globally, Canada is becoming the third largest destination for international students. Furthermore, international students are twice as likely to study engineering, mathematics and computer science – major areas with projected labour shortages in the country.
While studying in Canada is a favourable pathway, it is evident that many experience difficulties navigating the complex system to acquire permanent residency. For example, barriers to securing relevant work experience is a major challenge that international students face in addition to the exclusion from many work integrated learning (WIL) opportunities available for domestic students. Canada needs a coordinated approach to leverage international students as a future source of labour and permanent residents. The authors stress that by focusing on in-demand fields of study, transparency throughout the immigration process, streamline pathways to permanent residency and further support from the public and private sectors, international students can fully succeed in Canada.
In August 2017, a crackdown by Myanmar’s army on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing across the border into Bangladesh. The Rohingya are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country and represent the largest percentage of Muslims. Following this mass exodus, no resettlement of refugees to safer countries – like Canada – were implemented. However, a small number of Rohingya refugees have settled in Canada since 2017. Fast forward to February 2021, where the military seized control over the government and human rights advocates report that persecution of Rohingya populations continue. This has raised much concern for many Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and Rohingya Muslims who remain in Myranmar (also known as Burma). Refugee advocates emphasize that Rohingya Muslims remain a lower prioritized refugee group and Canada should play a bigger role, similar to other resettlement efforts in Afghanistan and Ukraine. IRCC reported about 300 Rohingya refugees were resettled in Canada between 2006-2010 however recently $288 million (over three years) was committed to the Rohingya crisis by the federal government under the Special Envoy to Myranmar led by Bob Rae who was been appointed to the United Nations in 2020. As it stands, no new lead on the envoy has been announced.