Immigrating: Arriving With a Plan

by Katrina Murray

Katrina Murray is the Director of the Canadian Immigration Integration Project (CIIP) at the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC). She is responsible for managing an Ottawa-based team as well as Field Managers located in CIIP offices in China, India and the Philippines. Before joining ACCC, Katrina had worked as a consultant both for Citizenship and Immigration Canada and for Human Resources and Social Development Canada.

A new initiative is helping skilled workers prepare for labour market integration in Canada while completing the final stages of the immigration process in their country of origin. The Canadian Immigration Integration Project (CIIP) is managed by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges and is funded by the Foreign Credential Recognition program at Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). Through pilot offices in China, India and the Philippines, the project aims to develop a model for helping newcomers prepare effectively for integration before their arrival.

The project responds to the concern that wellqualified newcomers with relevant skills and experience are often unable to get jobs in Canada that will help them reach their economic potential. It also reflects the reality that Canada’s existing labour shortages and skill gaps will multiply in the coming decades and that without more efficient labour market integration for newcomers, the country’s economy will suffer.

By working with immigrants before they leave home, the CIIP hopes that its clients will:

  • reach a fuller understanding of the opportunities and challenges that are likely to await them in Canada;
  • develop realistic plans which are designed to reduce risk and exploit opportunity;
  • take appropriate steps before they land in Canada to improve their employability.

In order to achieve these goals, the CIIP pilot offices are now providing three linked services to eligible clients:

  1. a one-day group information session to help clients find out about the realities of labour market integration in Canada. The session provides useful sources of information for further research;
  2. a personal counselling interview to guide clients towards the development of an individual plan for their own labour market integration;
  3. referrals to Canadian organizations that can assistclients in taking the necessary preparatory steps to improve their employability on arrival.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada informs immigrants in the federal skilled worker class about the project when they are nearing the end of the immigration process. Clients are advised to contact pilot offices to register for CIIP services. The labour market information sessions are offered to groups of up to 20 clients and are organized according to expected province of destination. Participants are invited to return the following day for one-on-one counseling interviews at which they can develop an Individual Integration Plan (IIP), which is intended to guide them through the integration process while still in the country of origin and then following arrival in Canada. The IIP identifies agreed actions in the areas of credential assessment and licensing, language and skills assessment and upgrading, settlement-related activities, and job search strategies. At the client’s request, CIIP counsellors make immediate referrals to appropriate sources of ongoing assistance provided either through Canadian organizations operating locally or on-line, or to agencies based in Canada. Since January 2007, around 800 people have registered with CIIP offices!