Integrating into Canadian Life

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by Shawn Mintz

Shawn Mintz works for Accessible Community Counselling and Employment Services (ACCES), an employment and training agency that offers a wide range of free employment services for both job seekers and employers.

Do you remember as a child that feeling of excitement, when you were waiting for your birthday to come and it felt as though it was taking forever? Thousands of immigrants who come to Canada each year experience a similar feeling. For Barry Yi, a civil engineer from China with 20 years of experience, the process to come to Canada took three years. “It was a long process and procedure to apply for immigration. But eventually I was successful in coming to Canada,” Yi said.

As Barry Yi, his wife and daughter waved good-bye to their family and boarded the airplane, their life in a new country began. For years they had been anticipating this moment and finally it was happening. On the airplane they experienced feelings of excitement and nervousness. Yi asked questions such as: How will I manage speaking a different language? Will I find employment? Where will our daughter go to school, and where will we live?

On September 6, 2003 the Yi family landed in Canada. Yi’s first impression of Canada was excellent. “The immigration officers were very polite and welcomed us. My English wasn’t good but they were very patient to talk to us and give us information.” Yi recalls.

Yi’s first two months in Canada involved registering for a Social Insurance Number and Health Card, renting an apartment, registering his daughter in school, learning how to drive in Canada and studying English.

In November 2003 Yi discovered Accessible Community Counselling and Employment Services (ACCES). At ACCES Yi joined a workshop that helped internationally trained engineers learn about the licensing process in Canada, terminology for engineers and how to target his job search. “Before the program I was afraid to make ‘cold calls’ (phone calls to potential employers asking for a job or interview) because of my English. However during the program I tried to make cold calls, and by trying I gained self confidence.” Yi said proudly.

After three months in Canada Yi’s main focus was to find a job related to his field. “The money I brought from China would only support me for half a year to one year. I felt exhausted and anxious because my expenditures each month reduced my savings,” Yi said. What kept Yi motivated was seeing other newcomers to Canada succeed, and he said if they could do it, so can I.

Yi’s first Canadian experience was at a six-month volunteer placement at the TTC as a senior project engineer. This was a very valuable experience as it helped him to develop workplace communication skills “The first meeting that I attended at the TTC, I could only understand 25% of what was happening. I was very nervous and worried about my English communication skills.”

Yi was determined to enhance his communication skills and practiced every day by listening to the radio, watching television and reading the newspaper. During the first few months of his placement he was afraid to talk to his supervisors. “But I would have to talk to them. If I had an opportunity I would ask them a question, if I didn’t understand their response, I would say pardon me. They were very polite and patient to explain the problem.” After three months of working at the TTC, Yi understood 70% of the conversations and felt comfortable asking questions.

After the TTC position Yi said that if he was unable to find a job by October 2004 that he would take a general labour position. “Even if I got a labour job, I would not give up searching for my professional job,” Yi said. He remembers feeling angry asking when would he find a job, and at times he wanted to give up “But my brother, wife and even my daughter encouraged me and said not to give up and that I should get a job. Even my parents told me to keep looking for a professional job and not to give up.” Yi’s family gave him the confidence to continue to job search.

On September 20, 2004 with the help of ACCES Yi got an engineering technician job. The first person Yi called was his wife who had returned to China temporarily and told her the good news. “Congratulations, I believe you should have got a job because you are great,” Yi’s wife said. Yi also celebrated his first job in Canada by taking his daughter out for dinner; they had pizza, a real Canadian family, eh?


Keys to Barry Yi’s success

He stayed focused on obtaining a professional job
Was encouraged by others’ success
Took every opportunity to practice his English conversation skills
Gained experience by volunteering
Made cold calls to employers every day
Ongoing support and encouragement from his family
Received help from an employment service, specialized in helping newcomers to Canada
Stayed positive
Top websites for internationally trained individuals

To find out if you profession is regulated and the regulatory bodies
To find out if your trade (plumber, mechanic) requires a certificate
Fact sheets outlining the step-by-step licensing process
Bridging projects so that you don’t have to duplicate what you have already learned
Education Assessments
English Assessment Centres
Occupation-specific mentoring to skilled immigrants
On-line Mentoring, matches a Canadian with a newcomer who shares similar interests
Settlement information

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