Second Careers for Newcomers

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by Sandra Fletcher

Second Career? Well, I’ve hardly had a chance to get started on my First Career! This is the sentiment of some newcomers to Canada who, when laid off, are advised to apply for the Employment Ontario Program, Second Career.

Second Career began in June of 2009 with intent to service 20,000 people in 3 years. It provides laid-off workers with training to help them find jobs in high-demand occupations in Ontario and offer financial support with: tuition, books, transportation and a basic living allowance.

The Second Career program has been quite controversial in the past year; in November 2009 there were quite a few changes. It now targets those programs that would provide the greatest benefits for jobseekers.

Those who will be eligible for Second Career funding will be gaining new skills for jobs that are in high-demand. People who have been unemployed for a long period of time or who have less than high school education or unaccredited postsecondary education are suitable to apply. With funding, those eligible will be working toward obtaining a college certificate, diploma or license for a career that is in demand.

The goal of the program is to provide skills training in order to help find long term employment in an occupation in demand in Ontario. Although it’s too early to conduct an evaluation to find out how successful the program has been there are some people who have firsthand experience with the success of this program.

According to Neva Kotsopolis of the Progress Career Planning Centre, located in Scarborough, many of her clients who entered into Second Career training programs have not yet completed their 2 year course of study. She anticipates graduates will begin their job searches this summer.

One person that is eagerly looking forward to beginning a second career this summer is Helen.
Originally from Hong Kong, she worked in the manufacturing sector for 3 years upon arrival in Canada. In Hong Kong, she had been an office manager for a school. She was unable to find work in her field and took a general labour job as a last resort.

When the company that she worked for closed down its plant in Vaughan, she was unemployed and unsure of what direction to take.

After meeting with a case manager, she attended a “Career Exploration” program. Through that program she explored what she enjoys doing (working with people) and what her values are (helping people).

Helen then worked with her Case Manger to fill in the paperwork for a Second Career Application to apply to be a Career and Work Counsellor. Helen says that the research she had to do into jobs available in the industry was the most difficult and time consuming part of the application.

While attending George Brown College, Helen has met many new people and learned a lot about other people and herself. She is eager to start helping other new immigrants, like herself, find their second careers.

While some are now saying that it is more difficult to meet the suitability requirements to be eligible to apply for the Second Career program, MTCU (Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities) Minister John Milloy states that “Second Career is already making a difference in the lives of almost 21,000 Ontarians, and I’m proud we will be able to build on the program’s success. Sustaining Second Career means more students can gain the skills and knowledge they need for jobs in the new economy.”

Second Career is not ending. From the March 2010 Budget, we have this fact: “We will continue to deliver Second Career by helping an additional 30,000 unemployed workers get training. This will bring the total number of participants to nearly 60,000 since the program began in June 2009.”

In addition to the Second Career Program, Ontario has developed other resources and programs to assist internationally trained newcomers with employment in their field.

In February the Province of Ontario introduced a new education bursary to help newcomers fund the cost of short-term college or university programs which are not covered under the OSAP program. These bursaries are provided under the “Ontario Bridging Participant Assistance Program.”

Under this program up to 1,800 students can receive up to $5,000 to help pay for tuition, books and equipment while getting assistance with jobs, obtaining work experience and other employment services. The program has been in existence since 2003 and has assisted over 35 thousand newcomers.

As well, the Ontario Government is continuing to fund the CIITE program (Colleges Integrating Immigrants to Employment). This program, also introduced in 2003, has received $11.5 million dollars in funding since inception and will receive an additional $8 million dollars over the next 2 years. The CIITE program operates out of College campuses and provides newcomers with education and career advice, referral services and credential evaluations.

For more information on any of these programs, check out their websites:

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