Study shows unexpected Lower Mainland job trend

Langley, B.C.—A recent study conducted by a Trinity Western University master's student has found the biggest variable in securing employment in the Lower Mainland is not education or personality—it's ethnicity.

Amidst a job market that's committed to workforce reductions, saturated by globalization, dominated by English and invested in advancing technology, a new concept of career has formed: job mobility. No longer are employers or employees committed to monogamous career-maturing relationships. More transient short-term work has normalized the market, forcing many into the job hunt. Determining who's securing the jobs and how they're doing so is, therefore, of great concern.

“The results show that non-westerners take about two and a half months longer to find work than westerners,” says Mike Stolte, who conducted the research. The study defines westerners as those from Canada, the United States and Western Europe and non-westerners as those from Asia, Latin/South America, Eastern Europe, Russia and Africa.

As part of his thesis for his MA in counselling psychology, Stolte set out to study the effects of personality traits, personal meaning and employability skills on job search length. With over six years experience as a counsellor in federally-funded job search programs throughout B.C. and Alberta, Stolte believed these factors would have significant bearing on how long it takes people to find employment in a market increasingly characterized by insecurity. His results revealed the greatest barrier affecting those seeking employment in the Lower Mainland is cultural origin.

Working with a population sample that included 115 people from the North Fraser region of the Lower Mainland, Stolte expected a number of results to materialize. Previous research indicates certain personality traits such as extroversion and conscientiousness shorten search length while traits like negative emotionality—defined by fearfulness, inferiority and helplessness—lengthen job search.

“When you compare the two groups in this study, it appears that non-westerners are more employable,” says Stolte who holds a BA (psychology) from The Kings University College and Honours equivalency in psychology from the University of Alberta. “The non-western group scored higher in employability skills—skills employers look for when hiring such as computer, reading and team work abilities—and personal meaning which includes the ability to cope under stress.”

While at this point Stolte is uncertain about why this is happening, he does speculate contributing agents could include: little recognition of foreign credentials, language barriers, cultural differences and, in rare cases, racism.

“Finding work is a cultural phenomenon and exists within a cultural context,” says Stolte. “Reducing yourself to a piece of paper, promoting that to employers and knowing when to call them and when not to call them is an incredibly complex skill with many social rules. A lot of people new to the country don't understand it. In Canada it's now becoming clear this system is not absorbing them.”

Stolte developed a new 30-item tool as a means of self-diagnosing employability skills. “The people who will be successful are those able to quickly adapt to what employers are looking for,” says Stolte. While government bodies such as the Conference Board of Canada have developed a list of employability skills available online, there remains no standard way for measuring one's own level of employability. “Part of adapting quickly is understanding one's own employability skills. The key is determining where your strengths lie and knowing how to market them.”

Stolte is now working as Provisional Chartered Psychologist in Edmonton, Alberta and more information can be obtained on the scale or the study by contacting him directly at 780-232-0308 or

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,500 students this year. With a broad based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 38 major areas of study ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 13 other graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.


Last Updated: 2015-07-20
Author: Keela Keeping