New Brunswick

'There is not opportunities for you': Immigrants want more than entry-level jobs

Juliana Walckoff says if Premier Blaine Higgs has any hope of attracting 10,000 immigrants every year to New Brunswick, the employment barriers newcomers face must be addressed.

Juliana Walckoff says many immigrants leave because they can't find employers who will allow them to advance

Juliana Walckoff has seen many immigrants leave New Brunswick because there are no employment opportunities beyond entry-level jobs. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

Juliana Walckoff says if Premier Blaine Higgs has any hope of attracting 10,000 immigrants every year to New Brunswick, the employment barriers newcomers face must be addressed.

In his state of the province address in January, Higgs floated the idea of increasing New Brunswick's population to one million people by 2040 to boost the gross domestic product and add 100,000 jobs. 

Walckoff, a marketing consultant from Brazil, settled in Dieppe three years ago after immigrating to Canada and living in British Columbia and Toronto.

It was the reasonably priced real estate that attracted her to New Brunswick, but it was the people who persuaded her to stay.

"I fell in love with the community," she said. 

They want to stay, but if there is not opportunities for you, why do you want to stay here?- Juliana Walckoff

Walckoff works with international teams from her home office, and finding work in her field has never been a problem. 

But she has seen countless newcomers struggle to find work in their respective fields.

Since arriving in New Brunswick, she has encouraged others to come to the greater Moncton area.

"I was telling my friends, 'Hey — come here … you can find pretty much any type of job here and people start coming.'"

Walckoff was pleased to see newcomers land entry-level jobs as they learned "how things work" and improved their language skills.

The problem, she said, is that their careers stalled, and they haven't been able to advance.

"You want to use your professional skills and qualifications and experiences, and when people were trying to find jobs that are more connected to their experience, they couldn't get those jobs."

Walckoff has watched many immigrants leave New Brunswick as soon as they received their permanent residency because they haven't been able to move beyond entry-level jobs.

"They want to stay, but if there is not opportunities for you, why do you want to stay here? If the people don't welcome you in different types of jobs because you're not from here, why do you want to stay? It doesn't make sense."

Language, racism are barriers      

Walckoff decided she had to do something to address the challenges immigrants are facing, after hearing from a friend who had decided to leave New Brunswick.

Even though her friend had purchased a home and was part of the community, Walckoff said, "no one was interested in hiring her," so she sent a few resumés off to British Columbia.

"Just for giggles, she said, 'You know what? I'm going to send my resumé to a different province. And she sent the resumé to a company in B.C. and now she's moving."

Walckoff, seated, met with Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold and Angelique Reddy-Kalala, immigration strategy officer, this week. (jobinclusionnb/Instagram)

In the past week, Walckoff has sat down with the mayors of Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview to talk about the barriers newcomers are facing when they try to find work in their respective fields.

She said there are three main challenges, including employers who don't know how to assess international credentials, the challenge of learning both French and English and the "lack of a local network."

"I know some cases where people were really super-qualified to do a certain job, but because they were not high school friends of the owner of the company or of the recruiter they did not have a chance."

Many immigrants also experience racism in their job search and in the workplace.

"There are a few stories of people that do the same job as a Canadian but they are being paid less — sometimes 30 per cent less."

Mayors hope to help

Mayor Dawn Arnold met with Walckoff on Wednesday and said it was an "excellent" meeting.

"While I have definitely heard her concerns expressed before, and there is work being done on all of them, it was excellent to have her unique perspective and particularly, her solutions," Arnold wrote in an email.

Walckoff has met with Riverview Mayor Ann Seamans, Dieppe Mayor Yvon LaPierre and Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold to discuss how to improve employment advancement opportunities for immigrants. (Kate Letterick/CBC News)

Walckoff said the province needs a free, online, self-directed language course that is convenient for newcomers trying to learn French and English.

Arnold said they also discussed an online directory to match employees and employers.

Dieppe Mayor Yvon Lapierre also met with Walckoff and said employment is one of "the most important factors" in attracting and retaining newcomers.

"The biggest challenge remains to match the skill set of our new immigrants with the jobs available and acknowledge and recognize their past experience," he said in an email.

Sending wrong message

Walckoff said unless municipalities, the province and employers do something to improve the opportunities for immigrants, many will continue to leave.

"They always talk like, 'We want you guys here,' but they just want us doing what they want us to do. We don't care about your qualifications, about your skills."

Walkoff has joined forces with other immigrants to get people talking about how to break down the barriers that exist for newcomers who want jobs that offer them opportunities to advance. (jobinclusionnb/Instagram)

Walckoff said the message immigrants are getting is that they should be happy with their entry-level job, and that more advanced positions are "for Canadians."

She has started a new Instagram account called jobinclusionnb to share stories of immigrant workers and of companies that have embraced them.

Walckoff also hopes to co-host discussions between local companies and skilled immigrants, where they can talk about their concerns and the challenges they face when trying to land a job they are qualified for.

With files from Information Morning Moncton