The Waterloo Record
October 30, 2008

Brent Davis


It’s not exactly the new life they’d dreamed of.

New immigrants, rich in skills in their homelands, are discovering their qualifications don’t automatically equal good positions in Canada. Instead, they’re forced to work so-called survival jobs.

For new arrivals, it’s a question of “how do I translate all that knowledge and education into a new direction in the country of my choice?” said Stephanie Mancini, co-ordinator of the Working Centre.

A program launched yesterday in Waterloo aims to provide direct assistance in the form of loans and career counselling.

Presented by the Waterloo Region Immigrant Employment Network, the program will provide loans to help new immigrants pay for training and education programs, document translation, accreditation exams and licensing fees.

There are a number of criteria that staff will consider in screening applicants. The program is intended for new Waterloo Region residents who:

  • Possess skills and education that can be transferred to the Canadian workforce through short-term training.
  • Have relevant English language skills.
  • Cannot obtain credit from traditional financial institutions because of a lack of employment or credit history.
  • Are highly motivated to succeed.

“It’s not starting from a clean slate,” said Dave Erb, a career counsellor at The Working Centre.

“It’s building on what’s already there.”

With a host of community partners, the employment network already provides a mentorship program and hopes to launch an internship program this year.

Loan applicants will work with counsellors at the Working Centre and an advisory committee representing various labour sectors to determine what credentials are required, whether it’s something they can ultimately afford, and whether it’s an appropriate career path in today’s labour market.

The loans will be issued by Libro Financial Group with interest charged at prime plus two to four per cent. Loan-holders will only have to make interest payments during their training. Regular repayments would begin 90 days after training ends or once they find a job, whichever comes first. Loans must be paid off in three years.

Although administrators intend to distribute loans of up to $5,000, higher amounts may be considered in individual circumstances, Libro’s Frank Kennes said.

“The number of skilled immigrants coming into Waterloo Region is just increasing constantly,” Kennes said.

“It’s such a small dollar amount that makes the difference between someone getting out of a cab and being a doctor again.”

The Working Centre can be reached at 519-743-1151.

Reference: The Waterloo Record