Skilled immigrants to Canada continue to experience high rates of underemployment and unemployment. A lack of recognition of foreign credentials and experience, language and communication barriers, discrimination and employers’ requirement for “Canadian experience” all contribute to this disconnect. This article presents the preliminary findings of a research project exploring what “Canadian experience” means in the context of skilled immigrant employment. Given confusion over “Canadian experience,” the authors argue for use of the term “tacit knowledge.” While Canadian experience seems to encompass hard skills, the tacit dimension of Canadian experience (soft skills) is much harder to acquire. Not everything about how one needs to operate within a new workplace (and new cultural environment) can be explained in words (codified knowledge). Some of this knowledge always remains tacit. A structured, nurturing environment (e.g., successful mentoring and internships) could provide a context in which immigrants could obtain tacit knowledge. Ultimately, we need broad structural changes in how immigrants are perceived and treated in our society. In the interim, the authors believe that acquiring tacit knowledge will provide immigrants with a more nuanced understanding of the Canadian job market and thus a strategy to address this complex issue.
Citation: Sakamoto, I., Chin, M. & Young, M. (2010). ‘Canadian Experience,’ employment challenges, and skilled immigrants: A close look through ‘tacit knowledge.’ Canadian Social Work Journal, 10(1), 145-151.