When I read the recent headline in our national newspaper announcing that Canada was opening a website where prospective employers and skilled foreign workers could date each other, one side of me was heartened and the other side petrified.
I was heartened, because when I came to this country a quarter century ago under the category of “skilled worker,” lured by the first world, “Brand Canada” lifestyle that was on tap, there were no such dating sites. All the Canadian High Commission in my native homeland had to work from was an outdated, typed list of required skills, among them, Undertaker and Sales Representative. Well, as I have a slight problem working with dead bodies, I qualified as a sales representative. When I arrived here, I got a bit of a shock: there were sales reps coming out of all nooks and crannies, including the mass produced ones from those dreaded telemarketing sweat shops. Thankfully, I used my “selling skills” to land myself another job, not one on the High Commission’s list, thankfully.
I was petrified at this news headline, because I have seen that first world lifestyle erode over the years, where the skilled workers of my generation have been reduced to a nation of Walmart and Dollar store frequent flyers, where training and retraining for displaced workers have been cut, where the unemployed or underemployed are those now 50-60 year old once-skilled workers and their progeny, the 20-30 year-olds who received a university education and an attitude as a reward from their parents; a whole segment of the middle class relegated to the wings while a new crop of skilled immigrants replace them. The dating game will make it easier to say, “Screw the locals, they cost too much and have higher expectations, let’s bring in the lean, mean and hungry.”
I still believe in the immigrant dream. It’s a rich experience that grows the soul, if not the pocket book. But Canada’s status as an “immigrant country” does not absolve it of its obligations towards preserving that first world lifestyle – its key selling point to newcomers. And that includes growing and maintaining a healthy middle class. And there is no free ride in not having to pay for education and training within the country and merely plucking the best and brightest from overseas who have been educated at the cost of their national governments, capitalizing on a foreign tin-pot dictator or corrupt regime that do not see the value of their human resources.
And the caveat emptor for the wannabe skilled immigrant is, “Are you willing to get only about 20 years of benefit from this system (that is, if you arrive before the age of 30. If you come later, the reaping period is exponentially shorter) before you are put out to pasture or forced to use your entrepreneurial skills to start your own business?” Skills atrophy over time and today’s skilled worker is tomorrow’s re-trainee. If we cut the re-training, there is an even shorter shelf-life for the skilled worker. Re-training should also be comprehensive to recognize the aging worker; we cannot always be on an upward career trajectory: the careerist should be trained for jobs that go up the ladder and others that descend gracefully with age, maintaining dignity and respect for the individual at all times– another hallmark of the first world lifestyle.
Ah, but then all this could be too much to ask, when the temptation is there to slink back to that dating site and lure another skilled sucker to our shores.