Gabriela Novotna (University of Regina)


Topic: Photovoice as a Method for Critical Dialogue to Support Immigrant Integration into Professional Employment

Language: English 


Background and Purpose. Over the past two decades, Europe has seen an increased number of migrants and refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and, most recently, Ukraine. Human capital coming from the migration of skilled individuals is a source of professional workforce and innovation for the host countries and the wellbeing of the migrants. However, reports indicate that labour market systems in many host countries have yet to capitalize on the calibre of skills that immigrants possess.

In this presentation, we offer insights and lived experiences of immigrants in Canada when seeking professional employment. Despite accessing the country’s formal economic immigration programs, immigrants report deskilling and underemployment. As “cultural differences” of predominantly racialized immigrants are considered the main obstacle to their integration, social workers are uniquely positioned to critically examine this social issue.
Method. A Photovoice methodology created transformative imagery and inspired critical dialogue for inclusive and reciprocal integration alongside immigration/integration scholarship and social activism for transformative policy and practice. A group of ten skilled immigrants seeking professional employment in the Durham Region, Canada, shared their experiences through photographs and personal reflections.

Findings. Personal accounts of seeking professional employment illuminated the collective story of challenges, opportunities and solutions. Specifically, 1) services for enhancing immigrants’ job searching skills are fraught with obstacles that prevent finding meaningful employment opportunities and creating strong networks; 2) silent and invisible racism permeates services; 3) rejection, judgement, exploitation, and devaluation of education and skills are part of the new reality post-migration; and, 4) flexibility, effort, self-confidence, and positive outlook are necessary but not always sufficient for succeeding in the process.

This photovoice project devised an opportunity for immigrants, social work practitioners, and policymakers to engage in critical conversations on transforming equitable immigrant integration practice and policy in creating a society where no skilled immigrant is left behind.