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UBC Theses and Dissertations

License to labour : a socio-institutional analysis of employment obstacles facing Vancouver’s foreign-trained engineers Geddie, Katherine Paige


Many professionally trained immigrant applicants receive high marks in the selection process for their perceived value to the host Canadian society and economy. Upon arrival, however, many new immigrants find that employers and industry-regulated accreditation boards do not recognize their foreign degrees and work experience. In this thesis, I interview 25 underemployed or unemployed foreign-trained engineers in Vancouver to investigate the diversity of their experiences in the labour market. I focus on how they perceive the obstacles they are facing and how they are responding to these barriers in seeking employment. This thesis is situated in a growing body of literature that considers labour markets as complex, place-contingent, socially and institutionally embedded constructs. Using a "socio-institutionalist" approach, which refutes conventional neoclassical economics' theories of labour markets as free, self-equilibrating, and uninterrupted markets, enables me to compose, then put to work, a multilogical theoretical model that examines the ways in which various institutions control, shape, and govern access to professional engineering jobs in Vancouver. In particular, I draw upon theories of regulatory, social and cultural institutions in the labour market. I find that regulatory institutions, such as the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC), create licensing obstacles that are indeed profound for new immigrants. In addition, many recent immigrants are excluded from local social networks that diffuse information about professional job availabilities; assistance is provided through inclusive immigrant and ethnic networks, but this rarely leads to professional employment. Lastly, many newcomers perceive their cultural institutional affiliation to be wanting, and so pursue Canadian academic credentials in an attempt to gain entrance into the market.

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