Immigrant job program posts 80 per cent hire rate
When Luis Masaya immigrated to Canada from Guatemala early last year, he came with an education in computer science and experience teaching at university and working in the United States.
But he couldn’t find work here.
It was some months before he realized that in Guatemala, “everyone is a generalist,” having several different responsibilities that in Canada would translate into several different job positions.
When Masaya, now 44, applied for jobs, they’d ask what his experience was. “When I tell them I can do a lot of things, they don’t see the depth.” Or they’d see his academic experience and assumed he wanted to teach.
Help in figuring out the intricacies of a Canadian job search came in the form of the Skills Connect for Immigrants Program, a three-year-old initiative funded jointly by the federal and provincial governments.
The program provides up to one year of support to newcomers. To be eligible, participants must be permanent residents of Canada, having arrived within the last five years, unemployed or underemployed and proficient in English.
Eileen Wang, program manager at the Burnaby location, said the majority of participants find work, if they’re actively looking, within five to seven months of starting the program.
Much of what the program assists with is helping clients understand Canadian cultural differences, and the expectations of employers here.
For instance, Wang said, in some cultures showing up 30 minutes late for an appointment is not considered late. “But in Canada, that’s not punctual.”
In others, people can often get what they want just by demanding it repeatedly. “Here in Canada, we have rules and regulations,” Wang said.
“They can search for a long, long time and not find anything and they don’t know why.”
The program helps clients increase self-awareness, adjust attitudes and understand the local job market. It even sometimes connects clients with potential employers in the community.
It appears to be working. In its first three years, the program has assisted about 1,000 clients, as a result of which 80 per cent found work using their skills and training.
As for Masaya, the Burnaby resident learned about the program at a job fair. He signed up and during his time there was encouraged to decide what type of work he most wanted to do.
He eventually decided he had a passion for working as a computer system administrator and the program provided government funding for him to complete a one-week certification course.
“Once I got that, I got a lot of respect at networking events I went to.” It was through such events that he started receiving opportunities and interest.
About 10 months after signing up for the program, and three months following his certification, Masaya was hired as a site administrator for Talent Technology Corp., a Richmond-based provider of software solutions for human resources and recruiting.
He’s enjoying the work and the people and is keen to spread the word about the Skills Connect program.
“They kept me on track.”