Learn While You Work

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By Dale Sproule

It is often difficult for newcomers to find a job, especially if your accent is hard for people to understand. You may believe that if you could show employers what a good worker you are, they would never want to let you go. There is a way for you to do that.

Some agencies offer co-op or internship programs for newcomers. Co-op is short for “cooperative”, which means “working together”. An intern is an “advanced student gaining supervised practical experience in the workplace”.

These programs give you a chance to learn a new job by actually working at that job, usually for no or very little income. You may think that you cannot afford to work for free, but if you can manage to get by for a little while, this can be a very worthwhile experience.

Along with gaining Canadian work experience, you will learn valuable skills and get an inside view of the industry in which you are trying to find employment. You can network with people in the field (networking is a word for getting to know people), so that if the company you are working for does not hire you (interns are sometimes offered paid positions from volunteer placements), your co-workers may recommend you for another job in the industry. Your temporary employer will probably give you a letter of reference, which is a very good tool for finding another job.

The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) offers a four-month internship program called Career Bridge. Run by Career Edge, Canada’s youth internship program, Career Bridge aims to help newcomers gain the Canadian work experience that is often required by potential employers. For more information about Career Bridge, call 1-888-507-3343 or visit their website at www.careerbridge.ca.

ESL Work Co-op in Mississauga is funded to help students whose English is their second language but it is focused on employment issues. Their full-time credit co-op program offers credit towards an Ontario high school diploma. You are graded on your assignments throughout the in-class portion. You must get a passing grade in this course in order to be placed in a company. Your course instructors will visit to give you support and guidance during the 11 week co-op placement portion of the program.

To be accepted into the program you must be an adult, your English must be at a level six in speaking and at level five for reading and writing, you must know how to use a computer well, you must be foreign-trained and have experience from your native country, and no Canadian experience in your field or occupation.

This program is offered at two locations.

Dufferin-Peel Co-op Centre at 2000 Argentia Road in north Mississauga will be moving in August to St. Gabriel’s School, 3750 Brandon Gate Drive in Malton. To find out more about their requirements or to make an appointment for an English Assessment Test call them at 905-567-1951.

The Brian J. Fleming Catholic Adult Learning Centre at 870 Queen Street West serves the southern part of Missisauga. Call them at 905-891-3034.

Even if you cannot get into these programs or courses similar to them, there are other ways you can gain Canadian experience. Volunteering is an excellent way for newcomers to gain experience and learn about Canadian culture. A volunteer is a person who works for no pay, usually helping out at non-profit agencies that need all the help they can get in order to help other people.

Volunteering allows you to use whatever skills you already have as well as learning new skills. You may be asked to cook food, clean floors, build walls and counters, help children or old people, go from door-to-door selling things, or almost anything else you can imagine.

You will probably have to speak English, which is good practice. You will get a chance to network with fellow volunteers, some of whom may even work in your field. You will gain practical experience working in your new country. And volunteer work looks good on a résumé, showing that you are a person who cares and who is willing to donate your time and skill to a worthwhile cause.

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