Immigration: Reaching Your Short and Long Term Goals

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By Veronica Leonard

Veronica Leonard’s family immigrated to Canada from England when she was 10 years old. She has worked as an employment advisor to rural and urban clients for almost 20 years, many of whom have been newcomers to Canada. She has also worked with refugee sponsorship committees for families from South America and Southeast Asia. She has a BA, a B Ed and an Advanced Graduate Diploma in Distance Education Technology.

Your work skills got you into Canada but now that you are here, many jobs do not accept your degree or training. What can you do to get back into the work you want to do? You may have to get some more training from Canadian colleges or universities. This will take time and money, but if you make a plan, you can get help with the costs and find some short cuts to get to your dream job. It starts by setting short, medium and long term goals for work and training.

Short term goals: Language and Work

Until you can read, write, speak and understand English you will not have many work choices. But any job – even if it is one you do not like – is a chance to learn more English. You had an important job in your old homeland, but your first jobs in Canada may be very basic work: cleaning, cooking, or working as a laborer. Do not be angry because you are not working at the job you want. A number of good things happen when you work at any job. If your employer is happy with your work you will have a Canadian reference for your next job application. Also you will pay into the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) every time you get a pay cheque.

What is the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)?

We all should save for when we are old, but the Canada Pension Plan helps us save for that time. If you have paid into the CPP for four years, you are eligible for a small pension now if you are badly hurt on a job and cannot work anymore. For more information on the CPP go to factsheets/retire.shtml#b

What is Employment Insurance (EI)?

Employment Insurance or EI is a national plan to help workers when they lose their jobs, are sick, have a baby or adopt a baby. You can get money every two weeks for up to 45 weeks while you look for a new job. As well as giving you money to live on, workers who get EI, can get help to go to school for training. Not all jobs pay into EI, so you if you want to go back to school, try to get a job that does pay into EI. Do not be afraid to take a job that will not last a long time. Even if you are out of work after six months, you can use that work time towards your EI claim.

For information about Employment Insurance go to:

Medium Term Goals: Training that Opens Doors

When your language skills are good, start looking for training that will give you a career.

What kind of job will support my family?

In Canada, many people who work in skilled labour jobs are paid very well. Go to www.labour On this website, choose the province you live in, then choose the city you live inand put in the title of a trade like carpenter, mechanic, plumber, electrician, welder, brick-layer or any job you like. It will tell you about the job, what training you need, where the jobs are and how much they pay. Many labour jobs pay better than office jobs and it is not so important to have good language skills to work at these jobs. A trained labourer can earn $16 to $35 per hour.

Where do I learn and how do I pay for it?

The training for most labour jobs is available at the community colleges in your province or CGEPs in Quebec. Often, a one-year program is all you need to get started but some courses are two years long. Tuition and books cost about $3,500 per year. If you are out of work and getting Employment Insurance, you may get help from Service Canada or your provincial employment services to pay part of your training and give you a training allowance to live on when you are in school.

Ask at your nearest Service Canada Centre, where you can go to get help to go to training. Even if your EI stops before the training course starts, you may still be able to get money from EI to help you go to school.

What is Apprenticeship?

When you have done your year or two of training from the community college and you find work in your trade you can get into the Apprenticeship program. As an apprentice you learn at work and go back to school for four to six weeks each year for the next three years as you move up the levels of your trade. It will cost you about $500 each year. Often your employer will help with this cost and you will also get EI while you are in the classroom part of the program.

If you worked in a trade in your homeland, you can contact the Apprenticeship branch of your provincial government and ask to “challenge” for your certification. This is a test to prove you can work at the standards set in Canada. If you do not pass the challenge, it may not be a bad thing. Talk to the apprenticeship officer about courses they offer that might let you get the missing training you need. Or contact the community college and ask about customized training courses. These are usually four to six months long and are more hands-on than the regular college programs. If you are getting EI or welfare, you may be able to get help with the cost of the training and receive a living allowance while attending. Take the letter with your challenge test results to your social worker or employment advisor to prove why you need training.

To find out more about the Apprenticeship program across Canada go to

Add a community college course to your degree

If you have a degree from your homeland but it is not accepted in Canada, sometimes a community college program can make the difference. A mechanical engineer from Korea was working as a dishwasher at Chinese restaurant. When he was laid off from his job, he got help from Employment Insurance to take a one-year course in manufacturing quality control and came top of his class. A ceramics engineer from India also found a one-year course that opened doors for him. He took Non-Destructive Testing, a one-year course which teaches ways to test the strength of manufactured goods without breaking them. For both men, a one-year course opened the door to jobs with a $20 per hour starting wage. Their engineering education made them very good at their work and they became managers even though their degrees were not accepted. Once you start working at a factory it is often the quality of your work that gets you the good jobs more than the degree.

Some Training Programs are Free

Being a new Canadian can work in your favour with some government departments. Service Canada, the Canadian Border Services Agency and the RCMP are just a few of the government agencies that want to hire people who speak other languages in addition to English and French

Jobs with the federal government can be found at It is necessary to be a Canadian citizen to work for the federal government. The RCMP, the Canadian Border Services Agency, NavCan (which runs the airports), the Canadian Forces, the Coast Guard and Corrections Services offer their own training programs free of charge to people who pass their entry tests. Once you have been employed by any of these departments, you will be able to get more training from your employer in areas that interest you. Many other businesses like nursing homes, city police, or bus companies also offer their own training courses for free or at a reasonable price and they give you a job at the end of the course.

The Long Term Goals

If you get work in trades or manufacturing or with the government in an area like the one you worked at in your home country, you can plan to get your degree and other education accepted here. Many Canadian employers let their workers take courses and may help with the cost of training or let you work around the times of your classes.

Many universities have “transition” programs to help doctors, dentists, nurses, and engineers get the training they need to work in Canada in their professions. The first step is to find out how to have your credentials recognized. Go to www.servicecanada.

Most Canadian universities offer many of their courses on-line so you can take courses at home at night. It may take a few years, but your dream job can still be yours. Make sure the on-line school is an accredited Canadian university. Go to for a list and links to all of Canada’s accredited universities. You can get help to pay for university through the Canada Student Loan program. For information about student loans go to The canlearn website will tell you about savings programs for your children’s future education as well. Also for information about the many scholarships and bursaries in Canada, go to

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