Metro Canada
December 22, 2008

Brian Coulton

When Adam Yang had his annual performance review at TD Securities one year ago, his superior asked him if he intended to pursue a leadership position.

“Last year, I told him, ‘No. I don’t know what I want to do. I’m not sure,'” remembers Yang, the information technology worker who moved to Toronto from Hong Kong 12 years ago, PhD in hand.

But Yang is up for review again. And this time, he’ll be singing a different tune. “I will tell him directly that I really want to take on more of a leadership role,” he says with confidence.

Yang says his newfound self-assuredness is a result of his employer’s suggestion to enrol in the Professional Communications for Employment (PCE) program at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University. The program aims to improve the communication skills of internationally educated professionals (IEPs) who are struggling with barriers of language and culture in the workplace.

Before entering the program, Yang accepted a leadership position, which required him to liaise with and manage 15 subordinates. But the promotion he initially invited turned into a very stressful situation for Yang, who found he didn’t possess the appropriate skill sets to lead others.

Despite the credentials and experience Yang held, his broken English held him back from communicating effectively. But he says the language barrier was more than just confusing words of a sentence.

“It’s more the way you express yourself. What you really have to do is to be able to communicate with others. You need to build a bridge between yourself and other people,” says Yang. “In the program, when we sit down as a team, people watch you and say what they think you can do better. That really helped me a lot.”

Added to role-playing and simulations, it’s such experiential modes of instruction PCE program manager Nava Israel says makes the course so unique.

“People feel they are coming to a safe environment which simulates the workplace where they can make mistakes, learn from them, try again and improve, and then apply it in the workplace,” she says.

An immigrant herself, Israel understands the pains of transition new Canadians face in the workplace. Beyond language, she says an implicit component of communication is mastering soft skills like the ability to negotiate, present, work in a team and counsel, which she says the program evaluates and improves.

“Language is like being able to use a brush and mix paints. Soft skills are like painting a masterpiece. You cannot paint a masterpiece unless you can master using a brush and mixing paint.”

Reference: Metro News