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Canadian Immigrant Youth and the Education-Employment Nexus

Posted on:
January 26, 2020

Abstract

“Canada’s population of immigrant youth between the ages of 15 and 35 is approaching 3 million and growing rapidly. Youth are critical to Canada’s goal of recruiting immigrants to expand the economy, but there is insufficient information about their school and work experiences and inadequate support to ensure their successful integration into the workforce. This literature review investigates the connection between education and work for Canadian immigrant youth. It documents obstacles in the form of underfunded settlement services, lack of diversity in the school curriculum, inadequate English-language instruction at all levels of schooling, racially and ethnically biased streaming of students into the lowest educational track in high school, rejection of foreign school transcripts and work credentials, employers’ prejudice and discrimination, and workplace exploitation.

The number and magnitude of these systemic impediments create significant obstacles for immigrant youth. A major cause of these issues is insufficient funding for immigrant services under neoliberal economic policies. The outcomes for immigrant youth include failure to finish secondary and postsecondary education, a long-term cycle of employment in low-skill, low-wage jobs, and socioeconomic hardship such as poverty and homelessness. The authors call for greater attention to this critical population and make nine recommendations that would contribute to solutions in each major issue area impacting the education of Canadian immigrant youth and their entry into the workforce.”

Conclusion

“With close to 3 million immigrant youth between 15 and 35, and given that the main priority of Canada’s immigration system is to ensure an adequate future supply of skilled workers, this large population merits further study and effective services to ensure their transition from school to the labour market. The picture for newcomer youth in Canada is not entirely bleak, as attested by the fact that more newcomer youth go to college or university than native-born Canadians. However, this study identified several problem areas that interfere with immigrant youths’ success at school and work, including insufficient and underfunded settlement services, lack of diversity in the school curriculum, inadequate ESL services at all levels of schooling, biased streaming into the lowest educational track in high school, difficulties with foreign school transcripts and work credentials, and employers’ prejudice and discrimination. The number and magnitude of these systemic impediments create significant obstacles for immigrant youth.

The following policy recommendations would contribute to correcting some of these challenges.

  1. Settlement services: Establish comprehensive, culturally appropriate, fully funded settlement programs directed at youth, focusing on basic needs (housing, transportation, healthcare, etc.), preparing newcomer youth for the Canadian school system, and employment services, along with improved coordination among service agencies. Settlement programs should include education in Canadian labour laws to reduce workplace exploitation.
  2. ESL services: All newcomer students should be assessed for English proficiency and placed in levelled ESL instruction, with clear exit criteria for placement in mainstream classes. ESL support should begin in elementary school and continue until students have grade-level CALP skills––up to 5 to 7 years. Expanded ESL classes are also needed for older youth outside the school system. It is clear that greater funding of ESL instruction is needed.
  3. Educational streaming: Eliminate streaming based on race, language, national origin, and other biases and delay streaming of immigrant youth to give them the benefit of additional education and language instruction. Teachers and administrators need to become aware of the long-term effects of streaming immigrant students below their intellectual potential and provide support to allow their potential to emerge.
  4. Discrimination and racism in schools: Initiate a more diverse, non-Eurocentric curriculum that is relevant for all students and antiracism programs for students and staff.
  5. Education and work credentials: Establish consistent national standards for evaluating foreign school transcripts and work requirements for specific professions and a central credentialing agency. At present the legal, medical, trade, and other professions have separate assessment processes. Establishing a single entity with consistent standards and procedures would facilitate credentialing for newcomers as well as for educational institutions, employers, and licensing boards (Houle & Yssaad, 2010).
  6. Work-Integrated-Learning Programs: (a) Establish consistent standards regarding the purpose and conditions of WIL placements so that students are engaged in meaningful, paid skills training. (b) Regulate enforcement of employment standards in WIL programs. (c) Train guidance and employment counsellors to avoid streaming immigrant youth into unpaid, unskilled WIL placements.
  7. Workplace exploitation: (a) Increase oversight of sectors that employ large numbers of immigrants to ensure that federal and provincial employment standards are being implemented. (b) Educate newcomer youth and their parents about Canadian labour laws and workers’ rights.
  8. Mentorship: Institute mentorship programs in secondary schools, colleges and universities, and settlement organizations to help immigrant youth adapt to Canadian society, form social networks, and become established in the labour market.
  9. Coordinated, sustainable services: To ensure efficient use of resources, encourage active collaboration among stakeholders, avoid duplication of services in the same geographic area, and design funding to cover long-term needs rather than nonrenewable funding for individual projects.

Policy changes can only succeed if there are simultaneous efforts to change societal attitudes surrounding immigrants, race, and ethnicity. Education in Canada’s fundamental values of equality and a pluralistic society is the key to creating deep social change that permeates all levels of government, education, and the workforce. It is immigrant youth who will meet Canada’s need for skilled workers to support economic expansion. For them to fulfill this mandate will necessitate changes in schools and the workplace and increased government commitment to their full integration into Canadian society.”

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https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/cjfy/index.php/cjfy/article/view/29497

Also in this issue:

Career Self-Management and Development of Multicultural Knowledge and Practice: Experience of Professional Counsellors
Priya S. Mani

Special issue - Student Perspectives, 12(2) January 2020

Journal description

“The Canadian Journal of Family and Youth (CJFY), published once a year is a fully refereed interdisciplinary journal. Responding to the diversification of scholarly interests and regional concerns, the journal will be an outlet for Canadian and comparative scholarship on the changing dynamics of the family and the social situation of youth. Relevant papers might come from any discipline including Criminology, Political Science, Economics, Sociology, English, Philosophy, Business or Science. Scholarly debates on family related themes could refer to such topics as community and other social contexts, family dynamics, life course events, domestic violence, dating, marriage, and divorce but also ethnicity, racism, social class, gender, and ageism. Youth-related themes could include family issues, community, education, paid and volunteer work, youth-directed marketing, sports, delinquency and gangs, and so on.”

Source:

Research at a Glance is designed to inform the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) community and other interested parties about recently published, policy-relevant research from government, academic and NGO sources. The views expressed in the documents described do not necessarily reflect those of IRCC.

Summary

The authors call for greater attention to this critical population and make nine recommendations that would contribute to solutions in each major issue area impacting the education of Canadian immigrant youth and their entry into the workforce.
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