New Canadian Media

by Danica Samuel in Toronto 

New online programs are looking at how work is done in other parts of the world in order to more easily transfer newcomers’ skills to the Canadian job market. 

Abigail Fulton presented the British Columbia Construction Association's (BCCA) Integrating Newcomers program on Mar. 4 at the 18th National Metropolis Conference in Toronto. 

The program was one of two B.C.-based collaborative business plans showcased in the panel discussion “Facilitating Labour Market Integration to Skilled Trades”. The programs cater specifically to the construction market and offer an innovative way to reach immigrants who practise labour work in their home countries. 

“Many construction companies tend to look within their circles for hiring,” explained Fulton. “They employ their friends and family. Because of this, those who don’t fit into that category have a harder time finding work.” 

She explained that the integration program helps fill a gap, as 85 per cent of construction companies in B.C. have less than 10 employees.

... [U]nderstanding how construction is done in other countries [is] research Fulton calls “invaluable.”

An important aspect of the program is understanding how construction is done in other countries – research Fulton calls “invaluable.” 

Addressing competency gaps 

The BCCA Integrating Newcomers program focuses on assessing the skills of potential immigrants overseas as well as providing information about working and living in B.C., and later, employment leads. 

It is an example of several pre-arrival tactics that use online programs to properly survey, assess, mentor and inform newcomers about Canada’s workforce and labour market. 

Alongside this research is preparation for newcomers who want to settle in Canada and partake in the labour workforce. This is where the second business module called Facilitating Access to Skill Trades (FAST) comes into play. 

“Someone that comes from another country may have the components of many things, but we want to train them on the parts they don’t know.”

Sangeeta Subramanian of the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC of BC) and Lawrence Parisotto of British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) presented FAST as a competency assessment and gap training tool for skill trades individuals. 

Parisotto says the program is “explicit and direct.” 

“Someone that comes from another country may have the components of many things, but we want to train them on the parts they don’t know,” said Parisotto. “The way to do that is being contextual and dependent between our content so that it provides and addresses outcomes.”  

Getting credentials recognized in advance 

FAST’s online application is collaborated with Shift IQ, a cloud-based learning management company. 

Shift IQ provides detailed diagnostics, validation, gap identification, post assessments and contributes to the e-mentoring program that guides and coaches a person through understanding the trades and services. 

The research BCCA Integrating Newcomers and FAST partake in both concluded that one of the main things immigrants should complete pre-arrival is getting their credentials recognized. 

Similar advice was mentioned in the “Seamless Service from Pre- to Post-Arrival in Canada” workshop.  

Maha Surani, a senior program officer and stakeholder at the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) said that research done by Planning for Canada to align newcomers with sector specific jobs showed that 63 per cent of employers encouraged pre-arrival immigrants to have their credentials assessed. 

Surani spoke on Planning for Canada’s collaboration with Acces Employment, a company connecting employers with qualified employees from diverse backgrounds. 

“There’s nothing generic about our work, which enhances the program altogether,” said Sue Sadler, a senior director of services and program development at Acces. 

“We have sector-specific training, and then follow through with a job search,” explained Sadler. “We then have business communications with our clients, the employers. All of this is done to connect our pre-arrival candidates to employers.” 

[I]t is also essential for employers and staff members within various companies to understand the importance of inclusion of various backgrounds and diversity.

Connecting with employers 

Acces Employment’s continuum module is enabled by online technology to enhance the job search of immigrants early on. The eight-week program caters to six sector-specific markets – engineering, human resources, finance, sales and marketing, supply chain and information technology. 

Markus Van Aardt, the business communications consultant behind the program, said that “folks are hungry for this information.” 

He explained the learning principle of the program: Immigrants usually start off being non-conscious and non-competent of the skills required for each of their desired job sectors. 

“I’ve walked in these folks’ shoes, it’s important to make sure they are in good hands,” said Van Aardt adamantly. 

“Newcomers want this information. They will drive you, and you don’t have to drive them. They will move quickly in the learning process, from being non-conscious, non-competence to conscious, [competence],” he said, using a diagram outlining the process of adult learning to illustrate his point. 

Enid Pico, senior vice-president and head of operations and share services at Scotiabank, spoke from an employer’s perspective. 

As the first female president of Scotiabank Puerto Rico and once a newcomer to Canada, she shared her encounters as a newcomer to the country and stated that while a pre-arrival program that prepares immigrants for job specific sectors is important, it is also essential for employers and staff members within various companies to understand the importance of inclusion of various backgrounds and diversity. 

“These cross-competency relationships are important. [Scotiabank] believes in diversity. It’s the right and smart thing to do,” said Pico. “Because of this, it’s important for us to find units and partners [like Planning for Canada and Acces] so that we can work with them to give us what we need.” 

Acces Employment and FAST’s pre-arrival modules will launch later on this year and the BCCA’s Integrating Newcomers program is now accepting applications.


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Economy

A new Statistics Canada report has found that nearly three-quarters of university-educated immigrants received their degrees outside the country. This figure has increased since 2000,...

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Published in Education

PRIME Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday announced that a re-elected Conservative government will make it faster, fairer and more affordable for new Canadians and Canadians trained abroad to get their foreign credentials recognized in Canada. “Canada is fortunate to attract hard-working immigrants from around the world who are eager to earn a better life for […]

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Published in Politics

by Samantha Lui (@samanthalui_) in Toronto

Newcomers will now be able to get access to federal loans to help get their training up to Canadian standards in order to help them secure jobs in the fields they were working in their home countries.

According to the federal budget announced last week, the pilot foreign credential recognition loan program will be made permanent.

The program, which was introduced during the 2011 election campaign, gives loans up to $15,000 to help provide financial support for things like tuition for training, licensing exams, transportation and to help pay for childcare so a parent can go back to school.

Under the first two years of the pilot project, nearly 1,500 loans totaling to $9 million were given out. For the next five years, an additional $35 million has been included in the budget for future loans.

“Financial barriers are always problematic for immigrants and newcomers. It’s not a magic bullet, but it is a tool that can be used for immigrants who experience a financial barrier towards getting closer to employment.” - Devin Munro, WIL Employment Connections

WIL Employment Connections, a non-profit community organization based in London, Ont. that provides employment support services, has been involved with the three-year pilot project.

Devin Munro, manager of business and government relations at WIL, says his agency was able to help provide loans to 111 individuals in professions like nursing, dentistry, pharmaceuticals and accounting.

He says he hopes WIL can be part of the permanent program moving forward.

We strongly believe in having a loan program available to the internationally trained,” he says.

“Financial barriers are always problematic for immigrants and newcomers. It’s not a magic bullet, but it is a tool that can be used for immigrants who experience a financial barrier towards getting closer to employment.”

Canadian Government Awards Grants To Ontario Seniors’ Groups

Immigrant senior citizens across Ontario will now have more opportunities to get involved in their communities.

The Government of Canada has approved five New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) community-based projects in Ontario cities, Ajax, Pickering and Kingston, providing organizations up to $25,000 in grant funding.   

Part of the NHSP’s mandate is to promote volunteerism, support social participation and inclusion of others, engage seniors through the mentoring of others, provide financial assistance for new community projects and raise awareness for elder abuse. 

“Our government believes that one of the best ways to support Canadian seniors in Ajax, Pickering and Kingston is to work in partnership with innovative community organizations dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of seniors,” said Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, in a press release.

The Christian Cultural Association of South Asians (CCASA), which is based in Kingston, plans to use the money to launch The Beauty Writing Project in May, which will put on monthly calligraphy workshops.

Lessons will be carried out in English, but will be made accessible to Punjabi and Urdu speakers as well. 

Samuel Laldin, the chairman and chief executive officer of CCASA is very satisfied with the support from the government.

He says the funding will cover the costs of calligraphy kits for each senior, an instructor and a space for the lessons. Lessons will be carried out in English, but will be made accessible to Punjabi and Urdu speakers as well. 

Laldin adds that the program will help seniors save money because they can use the skills they learn at calligraphy lessons to customize things like birthday cards and even cakes for special occasions.

However, he says it will be a bit difficult for the organization to get seniors to the lessons.

“Our challenge is the one which we always face, which is transportation. There’s a lot of seniors. But for them to go [from] one place to another is a challenge, especially in the morning hours when their kids are gone to work,” he says, noting that it would be nice to have some more support to facilitate an efficient system like a school bus to transport seniors to and from lessons.

While transportation may be an issue, Laldin says the NHSP has helped his organization before.

“I think the New Horizons Program is good for the seniors,” he says, noting that the grant has allowed the CCASA to facilitate computer literacy classes. “It’s been five to six years now. The program is still going on.”

Photo Credit: Bridget Coila via Flickr Creative Commons

Calgary School in Hot Water for Alleged Discrimination Against Muslim Students

A Calgary private school has been fined $26,000 by the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal for causing “distress, injury and loss of dignity” to two Muslim students by preventing them from praying on campus grounds.

The tribunal found that Webber Academy discriminated against the 14-year-old students, Naman Siddiqui and Sarmad Amir, who were told that praying was against the school’s non-denominational policy.

“[...] We find that Webber Academy’s standard of no overt prayer or religious activities on school property was not reasonably necessary to accomplish Webber’s purpose of maintaining a non-denominational identity that is free from religious influences, and that the students could have been accommodated without incurring undue hardship,” reads the tribunals decision.

The human rights complaint was filed by the boys’ parents, Shabnam Nazar and Farhat Amir, who said their sons felt humiliated when they were asked to pray outside during the winter.

“A key pillar of our founding principles is that the school be a non-denominational environment in which children can thrive and focus on their academic success. This remains our goal.” - Neil Webber, Webber Academy

Webber Academy’s administration has since released a statement, saying that it would appeal the tribunal’s findings.

“My response to the decision from the Human Rights Tribunal of Alberta is one of disappointment and the decision will be challenged by Webber Academy through the appeal process,” wrote Neil Webber, president and chairman of the school.

“Our school was founded 18 years ago as a co-educational, non-denominational, university preparatory school. A key pillar of our founding principles is that the school be a non-denominational environment in which children can thrive and focus on their academic success. This remains our goal.”

Photo Credit: Amin Mat Azahar via Flickr Creative Commons

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories

by Themrise Khan and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa

The federal government is calling on its provincial counterparts to develop a national standard for registered professionals to ensure foreign credentials are recognized, Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre said.

Right now, Poilievre said, there are 13 different regulators and standards, a bureaucratic immigration process that can be very difficult to navigate.

Canada, he said, needs a “one stop shop” for registered professionals looking to immigrate.

A single national standard, with only one point of contact, would make the immigration system more efficient, the minister said. A single standard already exists for 10 professions, like registered nurses, he noted – a system the minister said should be extended to the remaining 14 registered professions.

When asked why the federal government was not taking the lead on creating the national standard, Poilievre said it’s a provincial responsibility.

The employment minister also announced funding to two professional organizations to help improve the recognition of foreign credentials for medical professionals and engineers.

“We have BNA [British North America] Act that gives provinces exclusive, legal and constitutional authority over these areas. That’s why we’re cooperating with the provinces,” Poilievre told reporters on the sidelines of the Conference Board of Canada's two-day Canadian Immigration Summit in Ottawa.

The minister did commit to meetings with his provincial counterparts to address the issue of foreign credential recognition in the coming months.

The employment minister also announced funding to two professional organizations to help improve the recognition of foreign credentials for medical professionals and engineers.

The Medical Council of Canada will receive $6.7 million in matched funding from the federal government to streamline its exam process for foreign trained physicians.

As for Engineers Canada, the federal government will contribute $779,000 in matched funding to develop an online competency assessment system that will make the profession’s accreditation system available worldwide.

Some 95,000 professional engineers are expected to retire by 2020. Current graduation rates are not expected to fill the gap.

Balancing social and economic

Speakers at the conference looked at immigration from a variety of perspectives. Provinces such as Nova Scotia and Quebec, for instance, both represented by their provincial Ministers of Immigration, emphasized the need and importance of immigration at the regional level. Nova Scotia faces a fast aging population. Programs in the province therefore, are focused clearly on attracting younger immigrants by way of international students and retaining them in the workforce.

The province was one of the first to launch the Express Entry System and is now looking to launch a business immigration stream.

[T]he new Express Entry System is seen as a gamechanger in the overall scenario of immigrant selection and retention.

In Quebec, on the other hand, 70 per cent of the 50,000 new French-speaking immigrants who entered in 2015 thus far, are economic class immigrants, highlighting the need for skills and economic integration in the province.

From a federal government perspective, the new Express Entry System is seen as a gamechanger in the overall scenario of immigrant selection and retention. However, some commentators at the conference expressed caution, stating that huge shifts in programming can be problematic if the social and human aspects are not balanced with the economic. 

Questions from the audience also highlighted the fact that there was a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding around the Express Entry System, and whether international students and temporary foreign workers can be part of the applicant pool.

People movement

Other speakers emphasized the need to recognize the new mobility among immigrants globally. Trans-nationalism has seen many temporary workers not wanting to settle in Canada. This new trend must be recognized by the business sector in Canada if it wants to attract the best talent and retain it. Migration is no longer a one-way flow.

The first day of the summit concluded with a discussion on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), a topic of recent controversy and government reform. This was perhaps the most complex discussion of the day. Canada needs to fill in labour shortages in many sectors, but cannot have every TFW stay in the country beyond his/her contract.

According to Diana MacKay, Chair of the Summit, the Conference Board's National Immigration Centre intends to create a strong knowledge base on immigration through research, leading to a Canadian Immigration Observatory that will regularly monitor the performance of Canada's immigration system. 

With additional reporting from iPolitics.ca

Published in Top Stories

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