Thursday, February 16, 2012

Canadian work experience as an ideological construct

Recent immigrants often cite a lack of Canadian work experience as a barrier to labour market attachment. Bonnie Slade has recently published a book chapter examining the political economy of this requirement, which has become increasingly important since 2003.

The ideological practice of “Canadian work experience”: Adult education and the reproduction of labour and difference” argues that programming which accepts the need for immigrants to have Canadian work experience frames “immigrants as deficient in the skills necessary for the Canadian labour market and regulates immigrant professionals‘ access to the labour market” (p.139).

Slade asserts that Canadian work experience operates on two levels. Practically, it is a barrier that almost all immigrants face. Ideologically, it depoliticizes the decision (i.e., makes a decision appear neutral and widely accepted) to undervalue the skills and experiences of immigrants.

This ideological practice reinforces “the feminization and racialization of the labour market, with immigrants over-represented in precarious employment relations despite their superior educational credentials and international work experience.” (p. 139).

Slade’s analysis is quite compelling and raises difficult questions about the impact of the program logic inherent in much of the labour market programming aimed at immigrants.

-- Bob Barnetson

1 comment:

  1. Similar to this situation outlined by Bonnie Slade, Canadian workers that have retired but have recycled themselves through the educational process are in the same boat. Many employers during an interview will ask the recently recycled Canadian worker "What experience do you have in relation to your new education?" If the recycled Canadian worker as switched careers for example from policing to human resources the answer is usually "none." The question as far as an experience construct goes is "where does the recycled Canadian get experience?" While I agree that Canadian society as a whole has to examine labour market programming aimed at educated and experience immigrants, it is also necessary to look at how to re-introduce recycled career change Canadians into the workplace. Many Canadian colleges and universities have fine certificate, diploma and degree programs but what is missing is a internship program between education institutions and employers as part of the education programs. It appears from my experience that recycled Canadians suffer the same plight as immigrants therefore the Canadian work experience as an ideological construct is flawed. If the federal government would assume it's responsibility under the BNA ACT for employee training, this situation might be turned around for both immigrants and recycled Canadians. One would assume with Mr.Harper toying with the idea of keeping Canadians in the workforce longer to delay OAS payments that re-introducing Canadian into the workforce as well as immigrants would be a national priority. But who am I kidding....this is Canada Eh!