Immigrants with background in construction find footing through Humber College initiative

Toronto Star
Sep 02, 2008 04:30 AM

Nicholas Keung
Immigration/Diversity Reporter

With 10 years of work experience, Everald James, a new immigrant from Jamaica, still has a lot to learn to become a licensed electrician in Canada.

There are the different industry jargons, measurements and codings that the 37-year-old Toronto man needs to study to return to his old profession – one in demand in Canada’s construction industry.

With a new initiative offered by Skills for Change and Humber College, James’s path to an industrial electrician licence is hoped to be much smoother.

The Trades Win Support Program is believed to be the first career-bridging program in the GTA that targets newcomers with a background in construction trades to help them find their new footing.

“It is critical to know the system, the tools and equipment, the necessary information to look for jobs here,” said James, one of eight pre-screened students who started the program last Monday. “A licence is critical,” added James, who has been here for two months. “It is something that Canadian employers have asked me for.”

The provincially funded program, which will be offered to millwrights and construction/maintenance electricians later in the year, includes five weeks of employment preparation training, such as trade specific technical and workplace language classes. It is followed by six weeks of licensing studies in Ontario codes, rules and regulations, as well as exam techniques.

Graduates have the options to complete an eight-week unpaid job placement or four months of mentoring experience.

“We looked at the demand and supply, and identified these underserved areas,” explained program manager Vibha Vohra-Bhalla. “There is such a gap and need for these skills with so many older workers retiring in trades.”

To qualify, participants must have Grade 10 or equivalent education and at least four years or 9,000 hours of work experience in trades. They must also have legal status in Canada and a level 7 in the Canadian language benchmarks.

Student Ehab Guirguis, 43, said it is hard to return to school after working as an electrician in his native Egypt for 15 years. “You learn it by doing it, but now you have to hit the books again,” he said.

Cleiton Batista, who came to Canada from Brazil six years ago, is already a licensed carpenter but wanted to return to his old trade.

“It is important to get a licence because you make better money. Employers are more willing to give you a job because they trust you more and you are proved to have the experience,” the 29-year-old said.

Reference: Toronto Star