Great Expectations: Perspectives of Young West African Immigrant Men Transitioning to the Canadian Labour Market Without Postsecondary Education

Abstract

This article employs a life course perspective to examine the life experiences—expectations, disappointments and second chances—of young men from West African immigrant families who did not complete postsecondary education. Specifically, it demonstrates the discrepancy between the education and career expectations that parents have for their sons and the men’s own expectations as they transitioned from high school to the labour market. Based on a larger qualitative study of the postsecondary education decisions of male African immigrant youth in Southern Ontario, Canada, the article highlights the life stories of 20 young men in Toronto who transitioned to adulthood in economically vulnerable families. The findings demonstrate that the young men took a non-linear path to the labour market.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We focus on males because, as noted by Looker and Thiessen (2008), males are more likely to drop out of school and less likely than females to take up “second chances”.

  2. 2.

    The remaining 9 participants who did not complete PSE arrived more recently as refugees. All were completing high school diplomas in adult education classes with plans to enter PSE programs. While the career expectations of their parents were also high, their challenges differed from their economic stream counterparts, and for that reason, we removed them from this analysis and decided to focus phase 2 of our transition to PSE research specifically on them. We are now building on the findings of our Ontario-based study by comparing and contrasting the experiences of African refugee youth across six provincial educational jurisdictions. The national study expands on the Ontario research by adding young women and francophone African youth to the population sample, and by exploring themes identified in Ontario such as the importance of second chances and resiliency.

  3. 3.

    It is not clear how many of these “Black youth” are actually African immigrants.

  4. 4.

    Pseudonyms have been used throughout the article to protect the research participants’ identities.

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Funding

This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [Insight Development Grant 210603].

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Correspondence to Stacey Wilson-Forsberg.

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Wilson-Forsberg, S., Masakure, O., Shizha, E. et al. Great Expectations: Perspectives of Young West African Immigrant Men Transitioning to the Canadian Labour Market Without Postsecondary Education. Int. Migration & Integration 21, 1309–1328 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-019-00718-4

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Keywords

  • African immigrant youth
  • Transition to postsecondary education
  • Transition to labour market
  • Parental expectations
  • Second chances
  • Life course perspective