Oshawa’s Trent University produces photo book highlighting immigrants struggles to find jobs

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Published August 19, 2022 at 12:23 pm

take a walk in my shoes

A new photo book shows the experiences new immigrants from Durham Region face as the look for professional employment.

The book is part of a new research project led by Trent University Durham Greater Toronto Area associate professor of social work, Marina Morgenshtern. The project studies the experiences of skilled immigrants as they look for work.

“Our project takes a look at the journeys of immigrants in securing professional employment, which include experiences of both empowerment and exclusion,” says Morgenshtern.

Canada’s immigration model – a merit-based system that aims to prioritize skills gaps in the labour market – is at the heart of the research.

In part of the project, researchers gave a small group of new immigrants living in Durham Region a camera to take photos to document their experiences looking for employment.

Each participant submitted photos and wrote reflections. The research team then interviewed the newcomers, discussed the challenges they faced, and how they handled them. They shared what employers and policymakers should know about the processes.

The photographs and reflections were compiled into a photo book called “Take a Walk in My Shoes” to share with the community.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” says Morgenshtern.

The storytelling approach highlights the lived experiences of immigrants. It explores immigrant experiences from their point of view, identifying gaps in employment services, and informing best practices for service.

Participants say existing help for employment searches — internships, resumé writing, and employment search services — have been marked by a variety of experiences including rejection, judgement, exploitation, and misrecognition.

Further, skilled immigrants face multiple challenges to find meaningful learning opportunities, create strong networks, and address bureaucratic demands.

Morgenshtern says participants exercised extraordinary strengths, extra effort, perseverance, flexibility, self-confidence, hope, and positive outlook to address marginalization but also notes that, “instead of calling those who are dealing with systemic marginalization ‘resilient’, we want to invite society to search for solutions.”

The project aims to inform Durham’s equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, newcomer advisories and welcome centres, and to educate about immigrant experiences.

Explore the ‘Take a Walk in My Shoes’ digital flipbook.

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