The language sector in Canada is optimistic that the government will change the country’s study-and-work policy in a way that will help language students both financially and pedagogically.
Languages Canada, the national organization that represents both English and French as official languages, is collaborating closely with the government to update the rules governing some language students’ access to the workforce.
Currently, students studying English or French as a second language are not permitted to work off-campus in Canada while they are enrolled in these programs.
This leads to foreign workers sometimes not being properly integrated even though they are a vulnerable population, just like students.
- “There is a willing in government to look at changes,” according to the executive director of Languages Canada, Gonzalo Peralta. “While amendments would be expected to take nine months to implement, Languages Canada is in conversation with officials within IRCC to proceed”.
What the changes will bring: Changing existing regulations would allow some language students access to work to benefit Canada, students and Languages Canada members alike.
- “Sometimes foreign workers are not properly integrated. They’re a vulnerable population, just like students, so we want to do it the right way. We want to provide a complete and full offer to language students”
- “This is not about opening the floodgates for people to come and learn a language and have access to work,” he said. “This is about meeting the needs of Canada and supporting students appropriately”
- “We are in conversations with the minister’s office and with senior officials in IRCC and I think that there is a willingness to look at changes for a number of reasons and they get our reasons behind this. These changes would give the language sector parity with other segments of the country’s wider education market”.
He also stated that the major reason for this is to provide a complete and full offer to language students who want to contribute to Canada’s growth and development.
- “Language learning is contextually driven. The reason why people travel to learn the language is to live with a Canadian family or work and so on, that’s where the final steps in language learning take place. This isn’t simply a financial issue. This is also an educational and pedagogical issue that we’re fighting for,” he said.
- “To ensure benefits for students, schools, and Canada as a whole, any changes to the rule would need to be carefully considered. This is because the field of linguistics has a lot of potential in the field of immigration”.
How Languages Canada contributes to tourism: Every year, Canada needs 500,000 immigrants, and employers frequently have issues with language proficiency.
Therefore, Languages Canada anticipates success in a much more focused, coordinated, and cooperative approach between the language sector in Canada and other sectors. Languages Canada has also contributed to Tourism HR Canada – a sector that is in need of 10,000 workers
Peralta further stated that “Language, society, culture, transportation, banking, social networks, all of these aspects which Languages Canada members do best and are so important to the success of people coming here.
- “We’re putting together a proposal for the government to head out and seek candidates for a program that would match their very specific profiles,” he said, placing integration at the heart of the initiative.
- “So they would go through their language and integration program and then go on to jobs in hotels and other tourism and hospitality businesses that need them right across the country. It’s everywhere from Victoria to Halifax. The thing is for that just to go ahead, the regulation needs to change.”
What the immigration minister said: Once launched, the work and study rights will be a real game changer for language schools in Canada and moves have been made by Peralta to go back to the cabinet and ask for an amendment to the regulation.
- “We’re going to be able to learn some lessons over the course of the next year, and we’re going to be able to determine whether this is the kind of thing we can look at doing for a longer period of time,” Canada’s immigration minister Sean Fraser said.
- “What it means for providers is expanding their offer, of course, both quantitatively and qualitatively. But even beyond that, it means being an integral part of the Canadian conversation on immigration, labour, education and tourism.”
Why this move is important: Previously, international students were only permitted to work 20 hours per week, but as living expenses rose, student organizations renewed their calls for this restriction to be removed.
The action to address this is also an effort to address Canada’s labour shortages, which is a concern given that the nation is experiencing its lowest rate of unemployment in history and has nearly one million open positions.
As Languages Canada has been pressing for a change for several years, the government is now more receptive as it has revealed a temporary lifting of work limits for other student cohorts until December 31, 2023.
The ED Languages Canada is optimistic as he states, “…Although the regulatory change has not yet been announced or launched, initial signs are very positive”.
This will be welcome news for international language students from Nigeria and other nations as the need to work for more than 20 hours is imperative for survival in Canada as an international student.