Canada’s population is aging, and with that the demand for skilled trade workers is increasing. Canada, in effort to keep its economy strong, has refined its immigration strategy to attract (and retain) skilled trades workers – through the Federal Skilled Tradespersons Program (FST). To assist newcomers with the integration process, different levels of government have funded a number of community based programs which help newcomer address barriers they face when joining Canada’s skilled labour market. The YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region currently hosts three such programs: Power of Trades (a program which prepares immigrants to work in Ottawa’s four trade sectors), Pre-Apprenticeship Program (a program dedicated to skills training for immigrants in carpentry and home renovations), and Build ON (an online service that orients immigrants to Ontario’s skilled trades prior to their arrival in Canada).
Kendra Duval, the Y’s Director of Immigrant Employment Programs, discusses what barriers newcomers face when attempting to enter Ontario’s Skilled Trades’ labour market.
“Job titles here in Canada can be really different. For example, a former client of mine used to refer to himself as a carpenter, but after reviewing his past experience, we realized that he is in fact a cabinetmaker. He didn’t realize that here in Ontario wood working is separated into different trades. This is often one of the biggest challenges a newcomer faces; understanding their transferable skills, and how their skills can be applied within the Canadian context.
“Other barriers newcomers face would be their understanding of our regulatory systems. This is where the Power of Trades and Build ON programs come in. Through our programs, we’re able to orientate newcomers on how our regulatory system works, and how they can go about becoming certified, or perhaps consider an alternate career.
“Another barrier would be culture. A lot of our clients have fear that when they enter the Canadian workplace, [that] they’re not going to know what to do or perhaps fear that everything will be different; the tools, the equipment, the materials used. This is sometimes a reality, but often things are much more similar than they might think. So educating newcomers on Canadian employer expectations is important.
“Newcomers sometimes end up at the workplace and find out that they don’t have the technical skills required to do the job, and sometimes the employer realizes this too. This is where an employer will have to make a decision: are we able to help bridge the skills gap? Usually, this isn’t a deal breaker, but what often is would be the lack of soft skills [such as dealing with conflict, teamwork, etc.]. Any incident that I can think of where a newcomer lost their job, lack of soft skills was usually the case. This is why we emphasize soft skills throughout our programs.
“Most of my clients who have had success have had someone on the job who has been an informal mentor; usually an experienced person who can take them under their wing and help them transition. Generally this is not a supervisor because sometimes newcomers have cultural questions; small things that are easier to ask a peer, rather than ask their boss. Questions like: ‘how do breaks work here?’, or ‘what is expected from us on the job?’.”
Although community-based programs such as Power of Trades, Pre-Apprenticeship, and Build ON help to address barriers newcomers face, much more needs to be done in the way of connecting newcomers with professionals within their field.
Connect with a newcomer today. Hard Hat Hunter makes it easy. It will most definitely prove to be a rewarding experience.
– Article by Aaron Fallon, Employment Consultant, YMCA-YWCA Build ON
Note: Power of Trades is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and United Way Ottawa; Pre-Apprenticeship Program is funded by Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development; Build ON is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.