Ontario is set to implement a significant change in its hiring practices, aiming to eliminate the requirement for Canadian work experience in job postings or application forms. This progressive move, announced by the Labour Minister David Piccini, is intended to facilitate opportunities for newcomers and address barriers they face when seeking employment.

The province of Ontario is taking the lead in breaking down this employment barrier, becoming the first province to undertake such a transformative step. Minister Piccini highlighted that new Canadians often possess a wealth of knowledge, skills, and abilities. However, despite having a bachelor’s degree, many recent immigrants find themselves working in roles that demand only a high school education.

“I would say [to employers], bring them in for an interview, talk to them, get to know that individual, or talk to them about their experience,” Piccini urged. He emphasized the importance of giving newcomers the chance to showcase their skills and experiences, rather than dismissing them based on a lack of Canadian work experience.

This decision aims to create a more inclusive job market where talent and skills are prioritized over specific geographic work backgrounds. Shanika Niwanthi, who arrived in Canada in 2021 with extensive experience in corporate human resources, shared her story at Piccini’s announcement. Despite her qualifications, she faced underemployment, landing a survival job at McDonald’s instead of utilizing her skills in her field.

However, Niwanthi eventually found support through newcomer women’s services and a government program that allowed her to earn credentials and secure a position that aligned with her expertise. Today, she serves as the manager of HR and payroll at a community services organization, emphasizing the importance of removing systematic barriers for newcomers.

While this move has been lauded as a step in the right direction, concerns have been raised by NDP MPP Doly Begum. She expressed the need to address discrimination and systemic barriers faced by immigrants when applying for jobs. Begum stressed the importance of not just eliminating the requirement for Canadian work experience but also creating pathways for newcomers through bridging programs and practice-ready assessment initiatives.

Minister Piccini intends to introduce legislative changes, including the ban on requiring Canadian work experience in job postings, along with other significant labor law reforms. These reforms also include mandates for employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings and enhancements to benefits for injured workers.

The government aims to increase access to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program for international students by revising eligibility criteria, allowing students from one-year college graduate certificate programs to apply. Additionally, changes are proposed in how regulated professions evaluate international qualifications to ensure better oversight and accountability.

While opinions differ on the effectiveness of this ban in addressing underlying barriers, this move by Ontario signals a step forward in promoting diversity, inclusion, and opportunities for newcomers in the province’s workforce.

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