Jobs: Trades Win

by Salman Ansari Javid

Some 60 to 70 percent of newcomers qualify for permanent resident status in Canada on the basis of their profession and/or skills. Yet on arrival, many are unable to find jobs in related fields due to economic downturns or to regulations requiring licensing. Approximately 16 percent give up in the first year and return to their countries of origin.

There is an English saying that “every cloud has a silver lining”, which means that something good can be found in even the worst situations. For international professionals, the silver lining would come in the form of special programs created especially to help you find suitable employment. If you are an industrial mechanic or electrician, this may be just the ray of hope you are looking for.

Skills for Change has launched a program that opens doors for immigrants with backgrounds as industrial mechanics (Millwright), construction/maintenance electricians or industrial electricians in their homelands.

In partnership with Humber College, Skills for Change started its first batch of students in the six-week study program in August. Upon completion, students will receive a Certification of Qualification (C of Q) enabling them to find a job in their fields of expertise in Ontario.

Ms. Vibha Vohra-Bhalla, Manager for Programs and Services at Skills for Change, pointed out that at the moment there is an acute shortage of professionals in these fields and “we have managed to acquire provincial funding for two years for this program through our Trades Win Support Program.”

This is good news for people like Erlito Aytona. He came to Canada in 2001 from Philippines and recently found out about the Skills for Change program in his local newspaper, Filipino Bulletin. “I have an extensive background as lead electrical, instrumentation and control technician from my home country, so I decided to enroll for the program,” says Mr. Aytona.


The intake process can take up to two weeks for assessment. Candidates are required to provide the following documentation and skills:

  • Grade 10 or equivalent. Diplomas in all languages accepted.
  • Letters from employers in the home country of the applicants, showing they have 4-5 years experience with complete job descriptions. These letters will be submitted through Skills for Change to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU). Letters need to be translated by any official translation agency. Ms. Vohra-Bhalla says so far there has been no need for official translation of documents.
  • Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) Level Seven. Assessment on reading, writing and speaking and listening is provided by Skills for Change.
  • Legal status: Permanent residents, citizens or conventional refugees.
  • Hands on technical assessment by Humber College instructors.

In case the required documents are not readily available the MTCU also accepts self-declarations notarized by a solicitor.


The full-time course-load runs from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is not a crash course and enrolled students are from their early 30s to late 40s. The two stages include:

  • Five weeks in employment preparation training (Brampton Office)
  • Six weeks of Certification of Qualification (C of Q) exam preparation course

(Humber College, North Campus)

On the last day of class students are required to appear for an exam by MTCU for certification.

After obtaining their C of Q the student can be connected with a mentor for four months, or a work placement program for eight weeks or job leads by Skills for Change.

On his expectation after graduating the program Mr. Aytona said, “I am expecting that this program will guide me to the proper channel in attaining my real trade and lead me to further self development and upgrade my skills.”

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