Employment catch-22 awaits many immigrants

June 21, 2016

By Patrick Blennerhassett, Business in Vancouver |

For Drastant Mehta, moving to Canada from Kenya with his family was an issue of personal safety.

“When you go out, you don’t know whether you will come back, or come back alive,” said Mehta of living in the African nation. Mehta, who is originally from Gujarat, India, moved to Kenya because he has extended family there, and was hoping to further his career in computer science.

He worked as a retail sales analyst for Kenyan supermarket company Nakumatt Holdings from 2007 until 2013, when he decided it was no longer safe for his family. His first child was born in 2011.

“When we had kids we decided that we didn’t want our kids to be in this environment,” he said. “So we were looking for a safe, secure place for our kids where they would have a future.”

Mehta, who has a degree in computer engineering from Saurashtra University in Gujarat, said Kenya was no place to raise a family.

“You couldn’t go out, you couldn’t go out at night, and you couldn’t go to certain places.”

Mehta had many options to consider. He has relatives in Australia and also considered emigrating to England, but he decided on Canada, where he had no personal or professional connections, with the idea of making a fresh start.

“The reason for choosing Canada was we had no ties to Canada – no family, no friends. So we took it as a bit of a challenge.”

In 2013 Mehta immigrated to Surrey. Although he has substantial experience in the field of computer science, finding work was anything but easy.

“The biggest problem was convincing people of my abilities,” he said. “The organizations here stressed Canadian experience, and I know it is important, but people are skillful or talented even if they don’t have Canadian experience. If someone who is coming here has a lot of knowledge or experience or skills, if you make him or her wait four or five years until they have Canadian experience, that time of four or five years is totally wasted.”

After some effort, Mehta landed a job with Telus (TSX:T), where he now works as a performance analysis consultant. But that first job was an entry-level contract position. Not only did he have to navigate the unpredictable world of contract work, but he also had to quickly educate himself about various things like invoicing and incorporating as a personal corporation in Canada. He turned over a small portion of his paycheque to the headhunting company that aided him in his initial job search as a way to jump through the employment requirements.

“Canada has been awesome,” explained Mehta, who now sits on the Surrey Immigrant Advisory Roundtable along with Iraqi immigrant Wafa Aljabiri. “I have no regrets making the move to Canada.”

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