My name is Yudara Bernard Weerakoon. I'm an educator volunteer and a community builder. I'm passionate about educating people and building communities. I'm from Sri Lanka I came to Canada in 2014. I came here because of my wife, she had already planned to live here in Canada. At that time I was living in London England. I was doing my master's degree and then after the graduation we both decided to get married, so we both went to Sri Lanka for our wedding. We got married and then looking at the options we thought that Canada is a good place to settle in.
There are many obstacles for newcomers. One of the obstacles that I faced was lack of recognition of international education qualifications. I graduated from Institute of Education in London England. It was ranked as the world number one University for Education since 2014 in QS World University Rankings. So even though I graduated from a world-class university I remember I had challenges to find an employment. Another challenge was lack of recognition for international work experience. I have been to several countries. I have worked in education field before coming to Canada but I remember when I was applying for job opportunities and I felt some of the organizations were not counted my international work experience. So lack of recognition of education qualifications, lack of recognition of international work experience, having a foreign accent are some of my challenges and they are very common to other newcomers as well.
it is generally accepted that newcomers are highly educated, newcomers are skilled but still they face a lot of challenges, barriers navigating the system in Canada. Newcomers are often hired for entry-level positions but then they have difficulties to advance to a management level and also newcomers aren’t represented at the management or leadership positions in many organizations.
I'm proud to serve other newcomers as a mentor. I helped establish a newcomer mentorship program for Mohawk College in partnership with YMCA to provide mentorship opportunities for the newcomers. And I truly believe that mentors can help newcomers to achieve their goals. Mentors can help newcomers to find a job even to decide their post-secondary education or just to have a conversation about the things that matter to them. So I was really proud of being able to help other newcomers to find mentors and achieve their goals.
Hamilton to me is community. A community that I can belong to.
Originally from Sri Lanka, Yudara came to Canada alongside his wife in 2014, ready to relaunch his professional career after having lived in London, England. Passionate about education and community building, his initial move abroad provided an opportunity for him to build on his prior experience in Sri Lanka and earn his bachelor's and master’s degree from the top-rated institution in his field.
Despite his extensive international experience before coming to Canada, Yudara, like many newcomers, found it challenging to land a position that matched his skill set and prior experience. Having searched in many cities, his first professional opportunity came when he was hired as a project manager for City of Hamilton - an employer that actually motivated him to settle in Hamilton.
Since then, Yudara has used his professional experience to support the most vulnerable in Hamilton. He has managed education programs for marginalized communities in the city and currently works in the post-secondary sector promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion.
A strong believer in the power of mentorship and volunteering, when Yudara is not working, he dedicates his free time to supporting newcomers and youth wherever possible. Throughout his time in Hamilton, he has been an active member of various initiatives including the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council. Now a proud father, Yudara is happy to raise his family in Hamilton and continues to look for ways to give back to the community he calls home.
Immigration is vital to Canada’s population and labour force growth, as immigrants account for more than one-quarter of our labour force. In fact, almost 100% of Canada’s labour force growth and 80% of our population growth in recent years have come from immigration (census 2021). More than half of immigrants admitted to Canada are economic immigrants, chosen based on their ability to contribute to Canada’s economy and to fill labour shortages.In Hamilton, nearly half of recent immigrants in the labour force have a university degree, twice as many as for the Canadian-born population. However, for most immigrants, finding meaningful employment is a significant challenge:
- Immigrants are often not employed in jobs commensurate with their skills. Those with a foreign degree are twice as likely to be overqualified as Canadian-born or Canadian-educated degree holders (census 2021).
- A HIPC survey found that the top barrier to successful settlement for newcomers is lack of employment opportunities commensurate with their skills.
- Research shows factors contributing to the labour market disadvantage of immigrants include:
- devaluation of foreign credentials, particularly for racialized immigrants
- non-recognition of foreign work experience
- Canadian experience requirements
- lack of social and professional networks
- HIPC’s 2021 survey on experiences of discrimination found the most common contexts where discrimination was reported by immigrants and racialized people was when applying for a job or promotion, or on the job (for example, from supervisors, co-workers or clients).
- Volunteering is one way for immigrants to build connections and skills to integrate into the labour market, and also give back to their communities. According to the 2016 Census, nearly 40% of immigrants aged 15 and older were engaged in volunteer work.