For thirty years I have had the opportunity to work in a field I was trained to work in enabling me to be fully self supporting but now regrettably, I have been unemployed since October 2011. This may not seem like a huge problem to most people in Quebec, Canada this being the end of December 2011. However, I am no longer eligible for unemployment benefits and may have to for the first time in my life apply for social benefits from the state.
A shocking situation for this proud native born Canadian, the daughter of two working class parents, my French Canadian Father and my Irish Mother. I have just completed a course at a local College to improve my career options and actually had to remove it from my C.V. in order to obtain a job I was capable to perform over ten years ago, in order to pay the rent in January; very dismal and quite unfamiliar situation for this proud Canadian.
Having had only 10 interviews in the past two months, and discovering that I am either too qualified or do not have the right credentials, makes this frustrated Canadian questioning the validity of the officially published unemployment figures.
Prior to this situation my professional experience landed me the job, I have never had to resort from actually removing professional expertise to take a position beneath my expertise to improve my chances of getting a simple interview. Some companies don’t even bother meeting with me, I am actually asked to do on line test at my home as potential employers don’t want the expense of meeting with a potentially unsuitable employee, the screening process is now, based strictly on skills performance and not experience or expertise, this is definitely an employer’s market.
I actually accepted to work part time during the recent holiday season, a desperate attempt to earn some quick cash so that I could pay my rent in January, and this is where the shocking realization of the current unemployment situation in Quebec began for me.
Walking into this interview in its self led me to believe that I may be in serious trouble, resorting to work for Sears Canada in their call centre, a profession I swore I would never return to and the major reason I took a business management course at College Lasalle.
Working in a call center for this Canadian is the equivalent of working in a sweat shop. What I discovered happening right here in Canada, at Sears Canada in Ville St. Laurent, is a sad statement on our Canadian immigration policy.
A little Sears history for those whom may not know the Sears company: From its mail order beginnings, the company grew to become the largest retailer in the United States by the mid-20th century, and its catalogs became famous. Competition in changes in the demographics of its customer base hurt Sears following World War II, as the country’s suburban areas thrived, hurting the company’s inner-city (and rural) strongholds. They now use call centers to process orders received by telephone, they have offices in Ontario and Quebec, for those clients who are not using the internet to place their orders.
I was contacted by Volt Information Services, a global provider of talent, technology and consulting services as they saw my C.V. on Monster.com and asked me if I wanted to work through the holidays on a part time basis leading up to Christmas day.
I accepted immediately and a Mr. M. sent me an email indicating that I would have an interview at Sears on Thimmens boulevard and would meet with the HR representative, a Ms D.
My contract there ended on December 24th and I still have not met Ms D.
When I arrived there, I found seated 20 desperate looking people, 98% of them ethnic, waiting for the ‘interview ’at the security area in the lobby.
I noticed that many wore disheveled looking clothes, certainly not what traditionally is worn to an interview. Many were, I was later to discover, recent immigrants.
Everybody seemed quite uncomfortable about the impersonal way we were greeted, people shifting from one foot to another looking about as if we were headed for the chopping block.
I was addressed by a man from Lebanon who was anxious as this was his first job interview in Canada; obviously not prepared for the winter here as he was visibly shivering; four of the 20 people wore hijabs.
I wondered how it could be that I, with all my expertise, would be standing amongst people dressed so shabbily appearing to me to be living in such poverty attempting to get work in a call center.
I was given an orange tag to place on my jacket and asked to wait with the others; briefcase in hand, expecting to participate in an actual interview, I quickly realized that this was a ‘casting call’ and felt even more demoralized about the unemployment numbers being falsified in the media.
About 20 minutes later, a gentleman ran through a roll call checking off the names of people who did not report. I noticed there were no Smiths or Tremblays in the group and later I would discover that Sears had prepared for this by indicating on their applicants’ test the following question; ‘Name 3 Canadian national holidays’.
Some people were not asked to stay for the second part of the ‘interview process’ which included signing several documents outlining some rules and other formalities.
I was one of the lucky ones and was asked to attend a paid 4 day training session.
The training sessions were from 15:00 to 23:00.
I wondered how any large corporation could schedule training at that late hour and expect their staff to be fresh and ready to learn.
That first day our photos were taken, but not before we had to press a large black button before proceeding to the photo taking area. I officially felt like cattle being led into the slaughter house; each applicant was asked to press the button and if the arrow appearing on a screen hanging from the ceiling in the lobby was green, we followed one security guard to the photo area and if it was red, we were asked to go to the full body scan location, a little area to the right of the ramp, where we were told to remove all items from our pockets.
Let’s remember that this is Sears Canada, not l’Aeroport de Dorval.
I was hired to perform a data entry job for Sears catalog department. Curious, I asked people around me if they found it odd to be treated in such a manner; they all seemed to feel that it was not an issue for them.
I suspect that not having worked in Canada they may not have realized that we do not do this here.
I have worked in Canada for over thirty years and never received a body scan from an employer.
That first evening, we all introduced ourselves stating our name, our educational background and although we were not asked to, our nationality. I discovered that 98% of the new hires were newly arrived immigrants and most highly educated and being here less than 3 months.
I wonder how many unemployed Canadians would have jumped at the chance to work before the Christmas holidays, and why they were not in the class with me?
Did they not want to work for 10.07$ an hour or did Volt not have their C.V. to pull from ?
We were taken through their somewhat antiquated computer systems by a very efficient trainer, however Sears did not provide us with a pen or paper or any printed material for that matter to enable us to refer to later.
I discovered that Sears had no interest in providing us with any official procedures as, once on the job, when we hit a technical snag, we were asked to stand up, raise our hand and wait for a more ‘experienced’ staff member to lead us in the completion of the placement of the order. On my shifts there were 2 frazzled looking experts to perhaps 50 employees.
If you ever used the Sears catalog service you now know why your orders are not processed properly since the training and support processes are not effective.
On the second day of training I noticed that there were fewer attending as they were not asked to return for various reasons, mostly because they could not follow the very quickly paced class; 70% percent of the originally hired people were still attending the class by the end of the 4th day. S., our very competent trainer, declared they did not have the right stuff that we, the ones remaining, were better suited for the Sears’ profile ’.
When I arrived for my first shift, I was not greeted by my supervisor and was asked to sit down and log on to prepare for my first telephone order. Their call center, as most call centers I have had the misfortune to work in was row upon row of small open sided cubicles I stopped counting at 100, headsets upon their ears waiting for the calls to come in. This call center is open 24 hours a day as it serves all of Canada.
I wonder if Sears Canada’s “profile” is to hire newly arrived immigrants or is it simply that most Canadians would not want to work for Sears under these conditions.
According to the Immigration et Communautes Culturelle’s site, which published the report entitled “Quebec Immigration Planning for the Period 2012 – 2015 Summary “, immigrants will take jobs left vacant because of retirement as well as other jobs, which, generated by economic growth, could not have been filled given the insufficient size of the available manpower”.
Well, I have not yet retired, I still have 15 years to earn an income and be self sufficient.
I am beginning to wonder if Canadian employers want to hire a 50 year old experienced employee for 50,000.00$ or a 30 year old newly arrived immigrant who will do the same job for 25,000.00$?
Is our elected government making it easier on the employer by giving them the option?
Have I been forced to take a more menial job because of my age or has the Canadian corporation benefited from an immigration policy that, in essence, makes it impossible for this Canadian to compete in an over saturated market?
Article posted in CIR, Demographic shift, Featured, From CIR readers, Immigration, Other