It should come as no surprise that immigrants and refugees arriving in Calgary face numerous challenges to settlement. While newcomers routinely say that learning English is the biggest hurdle to their family’s integration into Canada, a close second is finding employment – 90% of Calgary’s newcomer population is under the age of 44, which represents a tremendous future workforce for the city. They are also educated – at least 38% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to just 34.8% of established Calgarians. And while their immigration status doesn’t mean that they are any less qualified, newcomers often come up against barriers to employment in Canada.
Former professionals, such as engineers and accountants, often require years of additional schooling to obtain accreditation in Canada. Those that don’t have professional qualifications often face even greater challenges as they learn to integrate with Canadian work culture – Canadian work experience is often a prerequisite for employment in Canada, but employment is required to obtain that same work experience. To address these challenges, CIES offers a series of employment training programs designed to bring newcomers into the workplace faster, including industry-specific courses in accounting, clerical, and computer skills. We also offer programs that build on existing skill sets and prepare clients to succeed in business.
The first of these programs is Employment Skills Training. This free, full-time program equips unemployed permanent residents and refugees with the skills to secure employment in Canada. Over three months, attendees learn how to make a career plan, build an effective cover letter and resume, learn how to navigate Canadian business culture, and develop their interview preparation skills. Up to 88% of graduates will go on to find employment in industries such as healthcare, childminding, education and trades.
The second program we offer is Entrepreneurship Development Training. This innovative new program encourages and removes the barriers to entrepreneurial success for immigrants and low-income Calgarians. Through a series of workshops, clients receive financial literacy in the Canadian banking system, including credit, savings products, and home ownership. Building on this foundation, students learn the principles of successful entrepreneurship, including business selection, plan writing, risk management, human resources issues, and taxation. The program completed its first intake of students in March; they will graduate in June.
It is in our best interests as Canadians to provide newcomers with the support they need to successfully settle and begin to provide for their own families in Canada. Settlement agencies across the country are continually tailoring their programs to offer newcomers the education and social skills they need to achieve independence for their families. As a Canadian citizen, take some time to reflect on the sacrifices made by your own family as they emigrated to Canada, and then ask yourself how you can help others do the same.
The Calgary Immigrant Educational Society (CIES) provides immigrants and low income Canadians with various levels of language, employment, computer, and settlement programs. They assist over 1400 students a day, 7 days per week, in-class and online.