Placements help newcomers get job experience

Artiben Patel has a bachelor of science degree from India but is going after a college diploma here in Toronto to become a practical nurse.

A former chief business reporter for the Zimbabwe Herald, Thomas Madondoro is working toward a journalism certificate while making ends meet as a security guard.

With a civil engineering degree and years of experience from Colombia, Hernando Romero is now repeating some of his training with evening courses in construction at a Toronto college.


On Ontario college campuses, these three are becoming more the norm as foreign-educated newcomers — frustrated over gloomy career prospects —return to school. Colleges are scrambling to figure out how best to meet the challenges they bring to a system designed for a very different kind of student.

For many immigrants, enrolling at a college is a way to restart a career stalled by their immigration and revive an intellectual life forfeited when they turned to driving a cab, serving coffee or working on a factory assembly line to make a living.

“We are well-educated and it’s hard to imagine spending the rest of our lives toiling in labour jobs,” says Patel, 29, a graduate of Gujarat University who has packaged Nike sneakers and dispensed doughnuts for $8 an hour since arriving two years ago. For the past year, she has improved her English at Centennial College, where her 25 classmates were immigrants with foreign degrees.

“It is not a choice. For many of us, going back to school is our only way out — to get a decent job that we deserve.”

Although no official statistics are available on enrolment of foreign-trained professionals, an estimated 15,000 immigrants apply to Ontario colleges each year, and 6,400 register as new students.

Add to that four or five times as many who enrol part-time.

College administrators expect those numbers to grow as long as Canada’s immigrant selection policies, which favour highly educated applicants, continue to ignore the realities of the job market.