Immigrating: The Maytree Foundation and TRIEC Generating good ideas that lead to good jobs for newcomers

by Theresa Wojtasiewicz

You have decided that Canada is where there are better job opportunities and a better life for you and your family. You have a good education acquired in your country of origin, with one or more degrees from university, or certification in your chosen field. Finding work in Canada should not pose a problem.

However, once you arrive, you may discover that employers do not understand or accept your university degree as valid; that your certification does not meet Canadian professional standards; that your work experience in your country of origin does not match what employers require in Canada; that your language skills in English or French are inadequate.

Needing to work to take care of yourself and your family, you take a job, any job, such as driving taxis or janitorial (cleaning) work. These jobs are often low-paying, sometimes with long hours, sometimes part-time, making it necessary for you to take a second or a third job to make enough money to pay your bills. This does not leave any time or money for you to take the courses you need so that you can get the job your education qualifies you to do. So you remain in the low-paying job, and become one of thousands of newcomers who find themselves caught in what is called "systemic poverty."

It was for this reason - to fight systemic poverty - that the Maytree Foundation was created in 1982. The Foundation realised that poverty in Canada was becoming a serious problem; the gap between the rich and the poor was growing, and it was very difficult for the poor to help themselves out of poverty. Over time, the Foundation's granting program expanded to help larger groups of people by giving money to agencies which focused on helping people get skills and opportunities for better jobs. Finally, those working for the Foundation realised that they could help more people if they worked toward changing public policy around how to bring newcomers into the labour market.

The Maytree Foundation has three objectives:

  • To provide funding to community and business leaders who have the ideas and ability to deliver on their ideas
  • To build and invest in leaders among immigrants and refugees, including providing experience and skills training, mentoring programs, and leadership development
  • To collect people from various interested groups and invite them "to the table" to discuss ideas that can be put into action

In order to accomplish these objectives, the Maytree Foundation operates a number of leadership and learning opportunities which include: "

  • abcGTA, an initiative to increase the representation of visible minorities and aboriginals on agencies, boards and commissions (abc) in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
  • Maytree-Wellesley Public Policy Training Institute
  • York University-Maytree Foundation Executive Directors' Institute
  • Five Good Ideas, a monthly lunch-and-learn program where experts discuss ideas on key management issues facing nonprofit organizations
  • Leaders for Change - a program for emerging leaders in the greater Toronto area

The Maytree Foundation also continues to provide loans and scholarships to individuals: "

  • Maytree Foundation-Alterna Savings Immigrant Employment Loan Program - providing loans to immigrants living in Toronto who need financial assistance to cover the cost of training or accreditation
  • Maytree Scholarship Program - scholarships for protected (refugee) persons in Toronto so that they can attend a university or community college

One of the partnerships the Maytree Foundation funds is TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council). In June 2002, a conference called the Toronto City Summit was held. This was a conference of leaders from various sectors and communities (business, labour, government, volunteer) that met and discussed what made Toronto strong and what challenges Toronto might be facing in the future. One of the items identified as a key challenge was how to to break down the barriers that immigrants, especially skilled immigrants, faced when seeking employment. As a result of this discussion, TRIEC was created in September 2003.

TRIEC has three objectives:

  • increase access to and availability of services that help immigrants get jobs in a better, more efficient way
  • change the way employers value and work with skilled immigrants
  • help governments at all levels change their policies so that they have a better response to the needs of skilled immigrants

Among the partnerships that TRIEC has formed are:

  • " the Mentoring Program (see Canadian Newcomer Issue #___ ) "
  • hireimmigrants.ca - provides tools and resources to help employers recruit and retain skilled immigrants.Career Bridge - a program run by the Career Edge Organization. It offers paid internship opportunities at a wide range of employers who have committed to providing first Canadian work experience to skilled immigrants.
  • World Education Services (WES) - an organization that provides evaluations to immigrants who wish to find out how their certificates, diplomas or degrees compare to their Canadian counterparts, and helps prospective employers understand the qualifications of skilled immigrants.

Imagine TRIEC as a table, at which leaders sit and discuss ideas, and then go out put those ideas into action. TRIEC and the Maytree Foundation puts citizens at the heart of looking for solutions and making them happen, so that governments at all levels can change their policies about what to do to help skilled newcomers get the jobs they are qualified to do.

For more information about the Maytree Foundation and TRIEC and their partnerships and programs, visit their websites:

www.maytree.com
www.triec.ca

CNM