Tamara Shephard

New federally funded program helps newcomers gain cultural awareness of Canadian labour market

Ali Lika worked as a successful engineer in Albania.

Then he came to Canada. He can’t find a job in his field anywhere in the GTA.

“Back home, a C.V. is very important,” said Lika, 54, referring to a Curriculum Vitae, expected by employers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. “Once you’ve finished university, everybody’s hiring you. Soft skills don’t matter.”

Lika quickly learned the Canadian labour market demands soft skills, resumes that sell, and interview skills that set candidates apart.

Recently, Lika and his wife, Diana, 46, began 12 weeks of night classes in a new federally funded program, Enhanced Language Training for Foreign-Trained Professionals. The couple, and seven others, all with customer service and administration or technical credentials, receive 175 hours of instruction at Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services on Bloor Street West near Islington Avenue. Child-minding is provided free-of-charge.

Another 17 foreign-trained professionals, most with backgrounds in administration, are taking classes at the agency’s Scarborough offices.

“Here, we learn how to sell ourselves, be prepared for the labour market,” Lika said of the ELT program. “Newcomers lack networking. This provides us with the opportunity to meet people. The labour market is very hidden in Canada.”

Prior to ELT, Lika completed a 10-week pre-employment development program, which provides individualized employment goals and action plans counselling, as well as resume writing, interview preparation and job search resources and assistance.

Now he’s searching for a job as an insurance company estimator.

Both he and his wife completed the popular LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) program that offers survival English from literacy to level 7 prior to their enrolment in ELT.

“ELT helps foreign-trained professionals get and retain a job commensurate with their experience, or helps them to refocus,” said Ximena Escobar, ELT coordinator with Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services. “It’s not meant to get them a job. It helps them improve their language and cultural awareness of the Canadian workplace.

“A lot speak English very well, but they might not know how to get a job.”

Ala Sarakosh, 39, taught English in Belarus before immigrating to the U.S. nine years ago where she earned degrees in education and education administration.

In Canada two years, Sarakosh set her sights on a Canadian job in higher education or working with immigrants. She works in retail and customer service.

“It’s a hardship because you don’t have Canadian experience,” say Sarakosh, who is also an ELT student. “The program teaches you how to change your resume to the Canadian way, go through the interview, the language used, cultural awareness.”

This fall, Diana Lika begins classes in career counselling at George Brown College.

She wants her path to a Canadian college to be a lesson to other newcomers.

“I was anxious to get a job, and at the same time, I had papers to go to school,” she said. She chose the job – in data entry. The contract lasted only a few months.

“It’s very important for every newcomer to think first about going to school if they don’t like ‘survival jobs’. It’s important to go to LINC school then think about what they’d like to do in the future. Maybe go to college or university. After they can think about a job.”

New ELT classes begin in September. Visit www.polycultural.org or call 416-233-1981 for more information.

Fact Box/sidebar

Helping immigrants integrate

Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services offers a host of programs and services for new immigrants, first-generation Canadians and refugees.

Language programs include LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada), and ELT (Enhanced Language Training) for foreign-trained professionals.

Settlement services includes assistance in the areas of education and training, financial support programs, professional licensing and trades certification, legal aid and legal issues, housing and healthcare, immigration and citizenship.

Other programs include family support, partner assault response program, immigrant employment assistance program, multicultural women’s wellness program, as well as problem gambling.


Reference: Etobicoke Guardian