Paving a Road to Employment

With immigration accounting for nearly all workforce growth as well as total population growth in Ontario, you’d think immigrants were doing well. But Stats Canada reports that immigrants are falling behind economically. This should set off alarm bells across the country.

This immigration growth will continue. Canada’s economy will suffer if it doesn’t. But the well-being of newcomers to Canada must grow along with it. Skills for Change Executive Director, Cheryl May, says, “As our workforce becomes more culturally diverse, Skills for Change aims to provide practical solutions and social initiatives to make sure that everyone has equal access to opportunities. But while the process requires each and every one of us to get involved, achieving the goals is not something that any individual or organization can accomplish by themselves.”

Progress is made when the settlement sector works together, when the changes become systemic rather than isolated. This truth has been recognized by the movers and shakers in the settlement sector for years, and was one of the main motivations behind the formation of CASIP, the Consortium of Agencies Serving Internationally-trained Persons, of which Skills for Change is a founding member. In that spirit of collaboration – and with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration – Skills for Change hosted the Conference for International Engineers on March 30th at MaRS Centre in Toronto. Their co-hosts for the event were a collaboration of partners - service providers,educators, regulatory bodies and interest groups that care about improving opportunities for internationally-trained engineers in Canada sponsoring the three break-out sessions, participating in the Ontario International Engineering Success Awards and introducing internationally-trained engineers to new programs, ideas and strategies for moving ahead in the green economy.

Skills for Change has always been head-first and hands on. Its pilot program in 1983 was an office training course that successfully prepared a group of Southeast Asian women for full-time employment. Today, a wide range of accelerated programs are offered to fit the needs of people arriving from all parts of the world.

The Trades Win Program helps internationally-trained HVAC mechanics, plumbers, millwrights, construction/ maintenance electricians and industrial electricians get the qualifications they need to find work in Ontario.

The Career Transitions for International Medical Doctors Program “is a must for any medical doctor immigrating to Canada”, says University Health Network, Clinical Research Coordinator, Andrea Morillo.

Following the Conference for International Engineers at MaRS Centre are Pioneers for Change – the 20th anniversary of the celebrated Pioneers for Change Awards, on June 5th; The second annual Mentorpalooza! in August; The third Diversity@Work conference in November; plus numerous Workshops & Information Sessions throughout the year.

If you’re setting the course for your career in Canada, visit the Skills for Change website atwww.skillsforchange.org. You can also drop in at 791 St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto, their Brampton office focused on trades and engineering, or either of their two new Employment Centres in Toronto (at Dufferin Mall and Flemingdon Park).

Future development plans reflect new trends in employment and settlement, and a new centre in York Region will be opening in early 2012.

All centres offer: information and referral; assessment, including Canadian Language Benchmark assessments in English and French; one-to-one counselling; workshops and events; settlement services and/ or referral to settlement services in the community; and mentoring. Aside from employment, Mentoring for Change includes settlement, professional and language mentoring. The reach of this program is expanding to include e-mentoring.