Canadian Consulting Engineer

Report finds why immigrant engineers aren’t finding jobs

September 17, 2014
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) released a report on September 10 that identified some reasons why employers are not hiring internationally trained engineers.

The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) released a report on September 10 that identified some reasons why employers are not hiring internationally trained engineers.

Entitled “From the World to the Workforce: Hiring and Recruitment Perceptions of Engineering Employers and Internationally Trained Engineers in Ontario,” the report presents the difficulties being experienced from both sides: employers and immigrant engineers. OSPE is a voluntary advocacy organization for engineers that was launched in the year 2000.

Three different methods were used to develop the findings. A web-based survey was done in the fall of 2012 of 77 employers, which together employed a total of 4,600 engineers and 2,300 engineering technologists. Thirty-four employers were also interviewed in person.

The survey of internationally trained engineers (“ITEs”) was web-based and carried out in early 2013. It involved 167 people who have already immigrated to Canada.

The core finding of the report are that there are “asymmetries or misalignments” between the way employers recruit staff and how internationally trained engineers (“ITEs”) search for them.

It found that only 10% of employers believe job applicants self-assess their language skills accurately. More than two-thirds of engineering employers reported they have difficulty evaluating the non-Canadian engineering work experience of prospective employees. Companies with fewer than 10 engineers on staff were less likely to hire ITEs.

Interestingly the report finds that 80% of job applicants are automatically screened out before even getting to the interview stage, and often this is because this initial screening is done by computer software. From these 80%, a further 75% are dropped following an initial telephone interview. Typically only three to five candidates out of every 100 applicants actually get to the personal interview stage.

The key objective of the report, OSPE says, is to find ways for employers and ITEs, as well as for professional associations and settlement organizations, to improve the integration of ITEs into the engineering labour market. It was clear that ITEs face challenges. Of the 167 ITEs surveyed, only 25% were employed at the time. Even among those who had been in Canada for 3-5 years, most were not working in engineering.

One of the main reasons that ITEs have difficulties, the report says, is that they tend to put too much emphasis on their technical credentials in their applications, and give too little information about their actual experience.

Employers, on the other hand, also want to ensure that the candidate will be a cultural “fit” in the organization and so they pay more attention to the candidate’s response to the non-technical questions. Candidates, on the other hand, find it sometimes difficult to respond to the behavioural questions.

One difficulty is that North American companies tend to be modelled on a team approach, whereas ITEs often come from a working background where “functional hierarchies” are more common.

The report notes also that ITEs might be more oriented to construction and oil and gas sectors, than to consulting, manufacturing and IT.

Ninety per cent of the employers ranked Canadian experience as important or very important in a candidate. They felt that the knowledge of codes, regulations and software as being skills that could only be acquired through experience.

Only 24 of the 77 employers surveyed had used formal “bridging” programs intended to introduce ITEs into Canadian employment, but of those firms, 80% had gone on to hire the individuals as full-time employees.

Moving forward, the report says; “By far, the most important support sought by ITEs is more opportunities to meet or network with engineering employers.”

Meanwhile, “The most valuable resource that could be provided to employers would be information that decribes the engineering profession and engineering education in other parts of the world, and how these overlap or differ from the engineering profession and engineering education in Canada.”

OSPE’s CEO, Sandro Perruzza, said in a press release: “OSPE is committed to collaborating with all levels of governments, employers, labour organizations and OSPE members to establish best practices to improve the integration of qualified ITEs into the Canadian engineering labour market.”

The report was supported through funding from the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada.

To view the OSPE report 5-page executive summary, click here.


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