Abdul Salam listens intently during a graduation ceremony from an ESL?class at the St. Charles Continuing Education Centre. Salam, from Ghana, graduated from the literacy and basic skills course.
When new Canadians first come to this country, enthusiasm can quickly turn to frustration when they realize their job credentials and experience might not be enough to get them a job in their field.
The truth is, most employers want candidates who are certified or trained under Canadian standards, a reality that Phil Schalm, a program director at Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, says is bred out of employers’ fears.
“People say, ‘You don’t know anyone here who can vouch for you? I’m scared to hire you.’”
As a result, many recent immigrants end up having to scramble to gain crucial Canadian experience. Luckily, continuing education options carefully tailored to new Canadians wanting to enter the Canadian workforce do exist.
Ryerson’s Chang School sits at the forefront of programs for new Canadians as the country’s largest provider of university-level education with more than 27,000 individual part-time student enrolments in its continuing education programs — almost half of which Schalm says are immigrants.
Among 72 different certificate and “bridging” programs in fields such as accounting, social work and midwifery tailored to foreign-certified students, the Chang School also specializes in mentorship programs and “workplace experience” placements.
Mentorship programs hook candidates up with real, working Canadian professionals in their work field to give them a feel for exactly how their chosen career operates in Canada and provide first-hand advice from a pro.
Workplace experience programs help place new Canadians directly into a workplace that fits their career specialty — candidates go to work for a real Canadian employer to learn the ropes and gain valuable, resume-worthy job experience to find future work while helping them get acclimatized to the Canadian workplace and its expectations. Schalm says Ryerson works with employers to ensure candidates are allowed to do real, challenging work that advances them in the profession — no busy work or coffee-fetching allowed.
Schalm suggests the need for continuing education programs to address employment issues among new Canadians is growing as Canada’s intellectual and professional landscape is changing — recent Statistics Canada figures reveal that roughly half the PhDs held in Canada belong to immigrants.
“We’re recruiting more immigrants who are professionals than ever before. The demand is growing for universities to serve the needs of this population,” Schalm said.
While Ryerson has positioned itself as a focal point for continuing education aimed at new Canadians, similar opportunities at other schools do abound. Queen’s University offers a program for international teachers to gain Canadian certification, while the University of Guelph maintains a variety of programs for biotech professionals with foreign degrees, for example. New Canadians would be well advised to cast a wide net when looking for a program to fit their particular needs.
Brush up on your language skills
New to Canada and struggling with English? Here’s a list of online sites and directories you can visit to brush up on your language skills: