Global Talent Bridge Partner Blog

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Immigrant Youth Workforce Development Challenges and Opportunities: Key Insights from an #ImmigrantsThrive Twitter Chat

Wednesday April 28, 2021 | by Shaunna-Marie Kerr

Immigrant youth have been among the demographics hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic across employment, education, and health (including mental health). The challenges highlighted by the pandemic were not new, but continued long-standing patterns, especially relating to unemployment and underemployment of immigrant youth in Canada.  

With this in mind, on March 30, WES convened more than 60 contributors to discuss immigrant youth workforce development in an #ImmigrantsThrive Twitter chat. Influential participants from government, service provision, and post-secondary institutions reviewed the challenges and also opportunities for increased labour market inclusion of immigrant youth. This critical conversation led to such outstanding engagement that the #ImmigrantsThrive hashtag trended at No. 3 in Canada. 

Here is a summary of the key themes that emerged from the chat: 

1.Unemployment and underemployment of immigrant youth remain a challenge across Canada, and a multi-sector approach with broad stakeholder collaboration is an essential part of the solution. To this end, WES has partnered with the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity to convene and co-chair a national roundtable on immigrant youth workforce development that brings together service providers, policymakers, employers, and representatives from government, industry, and post-secondary institutions. An example of this type of collaboration was shared by ACCES Employment, which tweeted about its partnership with ESDC, the Ontario Masonry Training Centre, and LiUNA. The partnership is helping newcomer youth prepare for careers in the trades sector. 

Success Skills Centre also shared that it delivers hands-opracticum training, mentorship, and networking in collaboration with the National Connector Program, as well as internships in related occupations. The YMCA, TRIEC, and the Centre for Skills Development all also highlighted the importance of partnership and cross-sectoral collaboration.  

2. Youth, and immigrant youth, are well-positioned to leverage the perfect balance of interpersonal and digital skills required for the future of work. SuccessBC pointed out that interpersonal skills are still a key component of immigrant youth workforce development, and we know that demand for digital skills is on the rise. Appropriate assessment and recognition of immigrant youth’s skills is essential for tapping into this underutilized labour pool. Technologies that use artificial intelligence (AI) and digital platforms are especially useful in this assessment and recognition. Consider contributors SkyHive and IECBC, both of which have platforms that can identify skills and competencies and increase employer confidence beyond what is possible with traditional résuméor interview practices.  

Not only are immigrant youth comfortable accessing and using platforms likes FAST and ASCEND (IECBC)but in many ways the benefits of these skills identification and assessment technologies are even more beneficial for youth job seekers with limited working experience.  

 Immigrant youth face many of the same bias and equity challenges that immigrants of all ages face. Many contributors pointed out that immigrant youth are often missing employment opportunities because of name bias, and that the primary solution here is to have employers increase their equity and inclusion efforts. Immigrant youth make up nearly 21 percent of the working youth population of Canada. This is a demographic the Canadian labour market cannot afford to exclude.  

3. Many international students want to live and work in Canada long-term; increased policy and programmatic initiatives are needed to leverage this growing source of talent. Many contributors pointed out that the higher tuitions international students pay can cause financial instability, not only for students but for their families as well. International students account for almost 40 percent of post-secondary revenue in Canada, paying almost $4 billion in 2018, despite representing only around 12 percent of the total student population. Even with these costs, there is a lack of programming for international students that supports their long-term career aspirations and inclusion in the Canadian labour market.  

How Can You Get Involved in the Ongoing Immigrant Youth Work of WES 

In addition to the Immigrant Youth Workforce Development Roundtable, WES continues to engage employers and partners in industry and direct service provision to identify and test efforts that support labour market inclusion of immigrant youth. Here are some ways stakeholders, including post-secondary institutions, can engage with the ongoing immigrant youth work of WES: 

  • Provide insights into service delivery challenges, trends, and patterns as well as proven strategies for increasing immigrant youth engagement.
  • Collaborate to increase access to experiential learning programs and pilots, including co-ops and work-integrated learning opportunities for immigrant youth.
  • Increase the availability of data and evidence on immigrant youth demographics, challenges, and labour market inclusion outcomes by partnering with WES Global Talent Bridge.

For more information, and to get involved, please contact program lead Shaunna-Marie Kerr 

Click here for more from WES Global Talent Bridge. 

Shaunna-Marie Kerr

Shaunna-Marie Kerr is a Senior Manager at WES Global Talent Bridge Canada.