Choosing the Right City is the Best Job Strategy For Newcomers

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The pandemic definitely challenged Canada’s workforce.

Ongoing COVID19 travel restrictions and quarantine regulations caused the influx of immigrant permanent residents – the lifeblood of the economy - to fall from 290,000 in 2019 to 164,000 in 2020.

That was a 21-year low.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia together accepted 79 percent of the international migrants who arrived here. Businesses in those provinces were hit hardest by this unanticipated development.

Opportunities for workers

Now, Canada is on target to welcome record numbers of new immigrants between 2022 and 2024.

In 2021,  according to CIC News, Canada hit record numbers with over 405,000 people becoming permanent residents

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For 2022, Canada has recently released a revised target of over 432,000 immigrants with higher numbers targetted for 2023 and 2024. 

And yet, despite the influx, many sectors of the economy are desperately looking for workers.

Finding workers a challenge for the economy

Jobless stats for April 2022 revealed that Canadian employers were looking to fill about  825,000 positions.

And even though the April 2022 unemployment rate is at a record low of 5.2 percent, finding workers is difficult. 

Take the construction industry for example. It’s facing a shortage of skilled workers across the trades, licensed professions and a range of business-related specialist roles.

According to BuildForce Canada, the ongoing skilled labour shortage and the impending retirement of hundreds of thousands of industry veterans — 259,100 by 2030, mean recruitment and retention will remain key for contractors. That’s just one example.

Location, location, location

So, now, after two-plus years, with almost all pandemic safety measures across the country lifted, what’s the best place and strategy for newcomers to look for a job (and settle)?

Linda Ryan is the National Program Manager with BCCA-Integrating Newcomers, a government funded, Canada-wide, pre-arrival career coaching service for high skilled construction professionals immigrating to Canada (*BCCA-IN).

A career and certified performance coach, she and the BCCA-IN team specialise in helping newcomers plan for, and achieve, employment success, no matter what city or province they are moving to.



When it comes to looking for a career, Ryan provides tips and two practical suggestions, emphasizing “location, location, location.”

“If I had a dollar every time I was asked about the best place to live and find work in Canada, I'd be rich! I mean where do you start...well, I start with considerations, move on to challenges and then provide clients with two practical suggestions.”

Her first consideration is the fact that the primary destinations for immigrants are “our three largest Canadian cities: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver.“

As Ryan says, on the surface this makes sense.  

“The more people, the more infrastructure, the more infrastructure, the more businesses, the more businesses, the more jobs. Right?

“Not necessarily.”

Facing the challenge of picking a city

Ryan points out that “the largest (and typically the most expensive) cities, as landing locations for newcomers, come with pros and cons.”

 Here’s her list of cons:

  • Stiff job competition: “Very, very, stiff … with Canadian educated and experienced candidates for the roles you are interested in.”
  • Unaffordable cost of living: “If Canadians are relocating from these cities because they can no longer afford to live here long-term or raise families, where does that leave you as a newcomer who's counting the pennies (or cents) every time you buy groceries?”
  • Extremes in regional climate: “Head to Toronto for hot summers and cold, snowy, longer winters. Head to Vancouver for mild seasons, warm summers, light snow (on the mountains) and LOTS of rain on lower elevations in winter. Who cares? Well you'll care, after a year or two, when the novelty wears off and the weather is impacting the kind of lifestyle you dreamt of.”
Rain is part of the Vancouver experience
  • Isolation: “One of the loneliest times of my life was in a city with a multi-million population (after I had a baby)! Picture this: husband at college trying to manage a career change (a journey a lot of newcomers face); no daytime friends (because all the Canadian friends I've made are in work) and no second set of helping hands (because I've no parents in the country). Agh! Getting to know your neighbours ("eh!"), building a social network, and integrating as a new Canadian are especially important if you have or plan to have a family. And it's often harder than you think in cities.”
  • Quality of life: “With the relatively higher cost of living in cities, many newcomers find themselves ditching their home-country professions and Canadian career plans to accept low paid ‘survival jobs’ just to pay the bills. This negatively impacts newcomers' long-term career goals and the time and energy required to create a balanced, happy life. Which, let's face it, is what most newcomers come to Canada for.”


Key tips for newcomers to Canada

So, how does Ryan guide newcomers to avoid the pitfalls of choosing the wrong location? She offers these two key tips:

  • “Broaden your destination options and therefore job search to consider other smaller cities, communities, or new suburbs.”
  • “Discuss and/or decide the top 10 must-haves for your lifestyle here in Canada. This will help you focus or confirm your destination. Be brutally honest about the life you want to create. Especially if you are coming to Canada as a couple. You might even find you have different dreams, expectations. That's ok. If you talk about it and find common ground that's what matters. Once complete, keep going back to your list when considering locations. It should be your compass for decision making.”


Use the newcomer's secret weapon

Her final piece of advice? 

Always be ready to move on.

 “If all else fails, remember that you're an immigrant. You're uniquely equipped to pick up, pack up and move on, if your first landing location isn't working out for you. 

“That's your secret weapon; so, don't be afraid to use it.”

 *The BCCA-Integrating Newcomers program is a free, pre-arrival, Canada-wide service, focused on helping high-skilled newcomers explore and build successful construction careers. Services include one-on-one career guidance, tailored resume, cover letter, LinkedIn advice, and an in-depth skills and education assessment to help newcomers focus on the best career, credentials and connections activities. The Integrating Newcomers team not only has multi-industry experience but are also immigrants who have built successful careers in Canada.


Integrating Newcomers Program