Educated and integrated: a Canadian trend of success

June 11, 2018

Educated and integrated: a Canadian trend of success

But did you know that our country’s high post-secondary completion rate wouldn’t be anywhere near it is today without immigration?

Contrary to some perceptions that portray new Canadians as a burden, causing increased taxes, clogging the health care system, and negatively taking advantage of social services, these important arrivals are absolutely essential if Canada wants to remain one of the most admired and economically stable countries in the world.

Canada’s high number of post-secondary graduates, the highest among countries registered within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has a lot to do with people just like Ahmed Elkhateb.

Elkhateb is like many immigrants to Canada: he achieved his university degree prior to arriving in this country and is now eager to put down permanent roots and contribute to our country’s economic success. His only barriers to this point in his Canadian experience are his language skills and his knowledge of Canadian society.

“I believe I can start in my career right now,” says the 46-year-old, who earned his bachelor’s degree in finance and banking administration from the University of Jordan, Amman. “But I am not completely fluent so I work on that first.”

And he is working very hard at that, but we will look deeper into that a little later…

For now, let’s look at what the hard numbers say. Statistics Canada reports that over half of recent immigrants who arrived in Canada in the five years prior to the 2016 Census had a bachelor's degree or higher. They arrive skilled and ready to fill growing job vacancies. With Canada’s aging population and declining birth rates, alongside growth in knowledge-based industries, the need for immigration is greater than ever.

Some will suggest that new Canadians will take established citizens’ employment opportunities away. On the contrary, the rapid loss of workers due to mass retirements of baby boomers is leaving huge labour gaps – gaps that our current citizens alone will struggle to close. With immigration helping to fill those holes, the economy benefits. More health care workers, for example, would help to reduce wait times, while increasing the number of people buying homes, shopping in our malls, and visiting our entertainment outlets. All of this contributes to a healthy economy and healthy communities.

When we dig further into the impacts on our economy, the facts are clear. Let’s not forget that over half of immigrants who arrived in Canada prior to the 2016 Census had a bachelor degree or higher. These people are typically seeking to continue in their career pursuits but need integration skills. So, knowing that, we will look at a new Canadians’ earnings upon completing a program such as Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC)*.

Researchers at the University of Ottawa’s Educational Policy Research Initiative, in partnership with Statistics Canada, and NorQuest College in Edmonton found that its LINC students’ earnings have increased considerably the longer they stay in the workforce. Someone who finished the training in 2005 entered the workforce with a mean average income of $20,600. That same person eight years later had a mean average income of $57,600. The benefits are clear: immigration and integration are hugely beneficial to everyone.

Ok, this is good segue to get back to Elkhateb.

This is a man who recognized the value of Canadian citizenship and did what he could to bring his family here to be part of an understanding and welcoming nation of people (a trait some may say defines our our country’s identity) that can offer him and his family prosperity, and the satisfaction that his contributions will not only help his immediate needs, but the needs of all Canadians.

Elkhateb is a LINC student at NorQuest College. He wasted no time in registering for the training upon arriving in Canada in March of 2017, and is grateful for the opportunity - not only to enhance his English, but to learn more about what it means to be Canadian. LINC students at NorQuest are not just taught language, they are provided with tangible integration experiences, lessons in Canadian history, and current events.

LINC classes are held throughout the country in big cities, small towns, and rural areas. Often, they are provided by Community Adult Learning Centres (CALCs). At NorQuest, the training is run through the college’s Faculty of Foundational, Careers & Intercultural Studies.

Within that programming, the college offers a LINC Volunteer course, which provides specific workforce-relevant programming to students with a higher level of education and a higher level of English (a 2017 NorQuest study found that 40 per cent of LINC students registered at the college had 13 or more years of education prior to coming to Canada) wishing to experience learning in an authentic setting.

The course provides an opportunity to improve soft skills and learn essential skills, and get Canadian experience and references. Elkhateb was assigned to volunteer at Edmonton’s Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, where he spent his time interacting with the public, helping the centre with some of its accounting needs, and helping fellow newcomers with their tax returns.

“I am a very lucky guy,” he says, proudly. “The LINC Volunteer course is making me involved and seeing the Canadian environment. Sometimes you are scared; it’s a new country and new culture. But during that volunteer course, it was a good chance to meet people, to fit in with the people, to try and improve my language. Maybe sometimes it seems hard for me to reach my top level, but I keep going.”

*LINC is a program funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and is free for all permanent residents of Canada.