Rebuilding Professional Lives: Immigrant Professionals Working in the Ontario Settlement Service Sector
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Based on an online survey and in-depth interviews conducted from 2009 to 2010, this study looks at the reality of a particular group of foreign-born and foreign-trained professionals in Ontario. These are the professionals who did not get to practise their respective professions after immigration but acquired a new profession in the form of settlement work. The study identifies their pre-immigration education and work history, the reasons they left their countries of origin (or of permanent residence) for Canada, the expectations they had, the choices they made about pursuing professional practice, the efforts they put towards that or some alternative goal, and their eventual professional reconstitution as settlement workers. Following the Canadian trajectory of these dual professionals has three contributions to research into immigrant access to professions. First, their individual experiences reveal the social processes of inclusion in, and exclusion from, professional practice. Second, unlike those immigrants who are de-professionalized in the post-immigration period, our target population reinvent themselves as practitioners of a new profession and thus provide a more nuanced immigrant experience. Third, their common practice as settlement workers gives us insight into the dynamics of an emerging profession that is settlement work.
KeywordsImmigrant access to professions and trades Recognition of foreign credentials Settlement workers Professionalization of settlement work
Research informing this paper was funded by CERIS—The Ontario Metropolis Centre. Earlier versions of the paper were presented at the Spring Consultation of the Canadian Council for Refugees (June 3–5, 2010, Ottawa), the OCASI Executive Directors’ Forum and Fall Professional Development Conference (November 1–5, 2010, Alliston), the 13th National Metropolis Conference (March 23–26, 2011, Vancouver), and the CERIS—The Ontario Metropolis Seminar Series (April 15, 2011, Toronto). I am particularly thankful to the immigrant professionals whose settlement work experience made this study possible. I would also like to thank the editors and two anonymous reviewers of this journal for their comments.
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