February 7, 2014 – 11:00 a.m.
Eaton Centre Galleria Offices, Herzing College Presentation Centre, Suite 202, 220 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON
Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney holds a news conference to announce Government of Canada funding that will help internationally trained workers apply their skills in a field related to their training, so they can put their talents to use in communities across Canada.
Hon. Jason Kenney: Well, thank you.
Thank you so much, Serge, for that warm welcome and your very kind words.
Thank you, George, as well for welcoming me here and to all of you for your patience and for finding us up here in Herzing College. I got a little lost down in the Eaton Centre, but what a great location you have. And thank you to all of the business owners who are participating here and the students, particularly in the Immigration Consultant program. I feel like I’m back to being immigration minister all over again (laughter). The job never leaves me.
I had the great privilege, as many of you know, of serving as Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for almost five years—the longest mandate apparently in our history—and during the time since Prime Minister Harper has been our head of government, Canada has welcomed over 1.8 million new permanent residents. If you think about it, that’s adding more than the population of eight of our provinces and territories in new permanent residents, and over 1.4 million new Canadian citizens.
So we continue to grow as a country with people filled with talent, intelligence, drive, initiative and innovation who want to work hard and live the Canadian dream. And there was no greater privilege really than serving as Canada’s Minister of Immigration, but now I have a new and significant challenge as Minister of Employment and Social Development, as well as continuing as our Minister for Multiculturalism.
And the challenges are connected because, as you know, we welcome so many—a quarter of a million new permanent residents every year. As I say, so many of them coming with education and high aspirations and often credentials earned in their countries of origin in various professions, trades and occupations.
And yet, for so many of them, they arrive in Canada and very quickly encounter challenges, frustration and barriers to achieving their dreams, their success, their potential. And nothing frustrates me more than meeting, as I do, every day with new Canadians whose dreams and potential have been thwarted because of all sorts of reasons: bureaucratic red tape and the lack of Canadian experience.
I call it the Canadian experience paradox. The employer says to you, I’m sorry, you can’t apply unless you have Canadian experience. And you say to them well, how do I get Canadian experience if I can’t get a Canadian job?
And then of course, there’s the enormous red tape to get credentials recognized by professional licensing bodies. Sometimes, there are language barriers or challenges for linguistic proficiency in English or French, and sometimes people just don’t have the networks that are necessary—they don’t have the practical knowledge, the soft social skills to break into the Canadian labour force.
And as a result of some or all of those factors, too many of our new Canadians end up feeling and being excluded from their potential in our economy. And that’s a waste for them, and it’s a waste for us. I’ve often said it’s immoral for us, as one of the most prosperous countries in the world, to invite people from some of the struggling countries to leave their good standard of living, their profession where their skills are needed, to come to Canada only to face under‑employment or, worse yet, unemployment.
And that’s why one of the reasons we’ve been making major reforms to the Canadian immigration program—so that now and in the future, we can do a better job of selecting people with the skills that are relevant to the Canadian labour market, with the language proficiency that will ensure employment, but also why we are trying to reform our domestic labour market programs, working with the provinces and educators, including career colleges, to better prepare people for the jobs of the future.
One of the ways in which we’re doing so is to try this Canada Job Grant to help incentivize employers to select people who need specific training with a guaranteed job at the end of it. And I want to thank Serge and the National Association of Career Colleges for their support for the Job Grant.
One of the ways we’re doing so is through our many programs, working with provinces and licensing bodies and employers to streamline and accelerate the process of credential recognition and assessment for foreign-trained professionals. And that’s not an easy issue because there are over 40 regulated professions in each province and then many other regulated non-professional occupations.
Each province has their own bodies and their own rules. So at the federal level, it is very difficult to simply solve that challenge. But we, the Government of Canada, have in the past few years invested over $50 million in the pan-Canadian framework for credential recognition for foreign-trained professionals, trying to get the provinces and the licensing bodies together to work this out so that there’s a simpler, faster process so that immigrant professionals can get an answer on their application for licensure within a year in a transparent and fair process.
It’s also why we launched the micro-credit loans pilot program for skills upgrading for immigrant professionals, a wonderful little program. We issued through partner organizations over 1 000 loans of up to $15,000 to help pay for the kind of education that many people are getting here at Herzing College, to pay for the additional courses they may need or their certification exams in order to get the licence so they can get the job of their dreams.
I have met people that have gone from being convenience store clerks to highly paid bookkeepers in the Canadian energy industry in Calgary thanks to that little hand-up through that micro-credit loan.
So we’re doing all sorts of practical things to try to lower and eventually eliminate those barriers to the successful economic integration of newcomers. And today, I’m here to announce another such effort in partnership with the National Association of Career Colleges, particularly through its Alternative Pathways for Newcomers Project.
I am very pleased to announce that we, the Government of Canada, will be investing $800,000 in funding to this Alternative Pathways for Newcomers Project, which will help internationally trained individuals with foreign credentials that have been unable to find employment in the fields for which they’ve been trained.
This project will provide information to these people so they can explore other occupations within or related to their area of expertise. For example, here at Herzing College, there’s a program that recognizes the experience of internationally trained lawyers and gives them training they need to be paralegals, and I think I just met a couple of them at the class going on next door.
Robertson College, which exists in Manitoba and Alberta, recognizes the foreign training and expertise of nurses and offers them a program with an accelerated path to health care aid certification. In addition to Herzing College, this project will be carried out through partnerships between career colleges right across the country, employers, immigrant-serving organizations and professional associations in all major cities.
Our government’s top priorities are creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. And we recognize that skilled newcomers help to fill shortages and key occupations that make an important contribution to the Canadian economy. So these things are very important. And let me just close by saying what a great partnership we see here between the folks involved in the actual training in places like Herzing, employers, licensing bodies and the government.
This is what we need to do—all work together in the same direction to ensure that people live and realize the Canadian dream, that their experience as new Canadians is one of success and not frustration and disappointment. And I really appreciate the work of the career college sector.
You know, there are some misconceptions out there about the career colleges, and I recognize that career colleges are among the most highly regulated institutions in the educational sector. And the people who come to career colleges—the young, the students who are here today and those who are in the classrooms right around us—they are making a real, serious, often sacrificial investment in their future.
They often have families to take care of. Most of these students, as you know, are young adults. Many have families to take care of, many are moving, working on developing skills for their second career. And to pay the tuition costs, to come downtown, come to school, instead of taking income in a job.
This is a big step for a lot of people, and we should be supporting the investment that people are making in their own professional development in their own education. And people go to career colleges for the clear purpose of improving their employment and improving their potential because they want to go to work.
These aren’t people sitting at home on welfare. These aren’t people who want to sit around collecting Employment Insurance. These are people who want to improve their income, their salary, their skills, realize their potential and they’re willing to make an investment in that. And career colleges like Herzing have a phenomenal rate of placement. I think yours is 94 percent of graduates fruitfully employed at the end of their studies.
That’s the kind of personal responsibility where the private sector is providing a highly professional educational product. And individuals are coming and contributing to that. That is more of what we need to see in our economy to address what many call the skills gap. So I’m a big fan and what you’re doing at Herzing and the other career colleges across the country.
One last shout out here to the folks who are involved in the Immigration Consultant program. You know, one of the important achievements that we had during my tenure at Immigration was reforming the regulation of immigration consultants. And I had been, I’ll be honest, very frustrated with the old regulator. I won’t mention any names, CSIC (laughter). I was very frustrated that they were creating unnecessary barriers to training and certification of ethical, properly formed immigration consultants, including Herzing that had applied, I gather, for several years and was not able to get certification to prepare future immigration consultants.
And that’s one of the reasons why, after an exhaustive study of the process and a fair assessment, we selected a new regulatory body so that we can help protect consumers, improve the reputation of the industry as a legitimate profession and ensure that the doors are open to many choices for proper education and training for immigration consultants. I’m glad to see that many of you are benefiting from our reform in that area.
I’m just going to say a few words. Are there any French‑language media outlets here? OK then, I will summarize in French. I said that one of the biggest challenges for new Canadians is having their academic credentials recognized so they can make a contribution to the Canadian economy.
There are many new Canadians who are disappointed for a number of reasons, including because they can’t get a job that matches their skills. And this is one of the reasons why we’ve made fundamental reforms to the immigration system; in other words, so we can do a better job of selecting immigrants and welcome those with the skills needed to find employment, often in fields where there is a labour and skills shortage.
So this is very important. But the other aspect is national. We are working with professional bodies, the provincial governments and educational institutions, including career colleges, to ensure better recognition of the qualifications and skills of foreign‑trained professionals.
So one of the projects of which I’m very proud, and which I’m announcing today, is $800,000 in federal funding for the National Association of Career Colleges, particularly its alternative programs for newcomers. This will help these people get the information they need to take additional training in Canada in fields related to the original training they received internationally.
I am therefore very optimistic, and I think that this is going to help thousands of new Canadians who study at career colleges. In short, this is only one example of our many projects aimed at helping these people realize their potential.
So thank you very much, and I really hope I get a chance to chat with some of you later on. Thank you.