Today’s international students are tomorrow’s immigrants to Canada

Richmond's Golden Village, the "new China...Image via WikipediaBy Juliana Tonello

International students are looked at as prospective immigrants by not only the federal government, but also immigration experts across the country. Many of these students are also expected to become business owners, once they settle down in the country upon becoming immigrants. That’s the expectation anyway. And, in anticipation, the country has begun attracting the world’s best and brightest students, offering them a fast track to permanent residency status.
“They [international students] will match the essential roles in business in the future,” said Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Eric Hoskins at a recent symposium. “Our labour market is an international one.”
Other experts also believe that making this strategy the foundation for immigration sets Canada apart from other countries that attract international students. Experts at the conference organized by the World Education Services (WES), including representatives of the government, educational institutions and settlement agencies, discussed the possibilities at the Symposium on International Students: The New Skilled Migrants.
However, Canada, which annually receives around 85,000 international students per year, is still behind the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Australia on the market share.
“We need to provide appropriate supports for those intending to become permanent residents,” says Timothy Owen, director of WES, a foreign credentials evaluation organization, citing it as a reason for the relatively smaller influx of international students in Canada. “They will study here, like what they see and stay. They will be ideally positioned to become part of a highly skilled Canadian workforce.”
However, educational institutions must focus on the needs of each province and offer courses that will help fill the jobs that are vacant due to a lack of qualified people in certain specialized professions.
“There are many people without jobs and jobs without people,” says Philip Steenkamp, British Columbia’s deputy minister of advanced education and labour market development. In B.C., 1.1 million jobs are expected to be created in the next 10 years, and immigrants are expected to fill a third of those jobs.
“People with specific skills will be essential,” notes Steenkamp.
The lack of Canadian work experience faced by immigrants is highlighted as a continuing concern by educational experts, who believe that barrier will remain unchanged for a long time. “Skilled work plus Canadian education plus work experience is the key for the Canadian job market,” says Catrina Tapley, of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Some advantages for international students to break this barrier are programs offering off-campus as well as post-graduate work permits. Tapley believes that work permit and co-op programs are of vital importance to international students who aim to become Canadians. Another good reason, according to her, is immigrants with previous Canadian work experiences earn approximately $10,000 per year more than skilled immigrants.
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