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Preparing Internationally Educated Professionals for the Future of Work

Friday January 18, 2019 | by Jodi Tingling

technology careers Canada

Those who work in the immigrant serving sector may be aware that the economy is shifting. This shift includes roles becoming more automated, changes in skills needed by employers, and employers requiring more creativity and soft skills in the workplace. It’s imperative for those who work with internationally educated professionals that they understand the relevant trends, employment trajectories, and implications of technology in order to better prepare clients for the future.

The future of work has garnered the attention of economists, researchers, and employment strategists. What does this all mean to those who are helping internationally educated professionals navigate the complexities of the labour force? According to a literature review on the future of work by the International Labour Office, careers that were once stable are being disrupted and essential skills previously sought after by employers are changing, creating a skills gap in the labour force.

Here are a few major themes coming forth on how the nature of work is changing and how front-line practitioners can help internationally educated professionals be proactive in their careers.

Advancements in Technology Are Changing How We Work

With the advancement of technology there is shifting relationship between humans and machines. Tasks considered redundant are being automated. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), 42 percent of tasks will be performed by machines by 2022. WEF also points to the development of new and emerging roles, for example roles in data analysis, software and applications development, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine specialists, and robotics engineers.  The ability to interpret data  gives individuals a competitive edge; numeracy skills paired with decision making is essential; employers require flexibility and the ability to adapt to change. Digital literacy (the ability to understand and work with technology) will be essential to all roles.

When coaching internationally educated clients, consider technological advancements and the disruption it may be causing in the field. Skilled immigrants will need to consider the possibility that a role that was once in demand may be phased out with the advancement of technology.

Those who work with employers can initiate a discussion about the technological advancements they foresee and the skills they will need to operate in the future. This will help those playing a liaising role between candidates and employers more clearly understand the implications within various fields and how they can better prepare client for this shift.

Human Skills and Emotional Intelligence are Valuable Assets to Employers

As mentioned, advancements in technology are changing the nature of work. According to a 2016 study from the Brookfield Institute, as technology and AI rise, there is greater need for more “human” or “soft skills” since “technology simultaneously increases productivity in non-routine, cognitive and interactive tasks”. In-demand human skills include: communication, collaboration and critical thinking, judgment and decision making, and the ability to manage people and resources.

When working with internationally educated professionals, initiate conversations about how they have used their “human skills” to facilitate results. Ensure they are marketing these skills effectively; help them to articulate this to employers. Within programming, incorporate strategies that build on their human skills; create case scenarios, role play activities, and work with communication experts to help strengthen interpersonal skills.

Life-long Learning is Essential to Adapt to a Skills-based Economy

We are now increasingly in a skills-based economy where the focus is on individual’s skill-sets and their ability to do the job, rather than formal credential and qualifications. Organizations are adapting to vast technological changes and need a skilled workforce to drive these changes. According to a report on the future of work and learning by Desire2Learn (D2L), employers are experiencing a mismatch between the skills they need and the candidates they see. Skills that were once in-demand are becoming out-dated. A skills-based economy requires a commitment to life-long learning to meet the needs of employers.

Newcomers to Canada and the U.S. often arrive with years of qualifications and experience. With a skills-based economy this may not be enough. Labour market research and continuous discussions with employers will be required to identify the skills they need in their fields. To promote the development of essential skills, have conversations with internationally educated professionals about conducting research in their field and understanding the skill-sets required.

Encourage internationally educated professionals to complement their education by exploring both short- and long-term solutions. In the short-term, they may consider courses focused on specific skills on platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, LinkedIn, and Coursera that all offer practical, skills-focused courses. Long-term, they may research programs with a more holistic approach to the field that will help them to build multiple skill-sets and strategy. Present these options to your clients; being prepared for a skills based economy will increase their ability to obtain employment and thrive in the field.

What Does This Mean for Practitioners Working with Skilled Immigrants?

Remain informed about changes in work and employment; read articles, attend webinars and conferences that discuss the implications. Encourage clients to develop human skills through work integrated learning (WIL) initiatives: opportunities that have practical employment implications. This may include internships, co-ops, field placements, secondments, and professional development if already employed in a role. If clients are considering multiple employment offers encourage them to inquire about professional development opportunities. This can be an indicator that an employer is committed to the learning and development of their staff to better prepare them for the changing nature of work. Lastly, continue conversations with employers about their needs and how internationally educated professionals can meet the changing demands in the profession.

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Jodi Tingling is a Program Manager at WES Global Talent Bridge Canada.