Lack of Computer Skills? A Barrier That You Can Overcome

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by Freddy Velez

Here you are, looking for a job in a new country – and there are some barriers in your way that seem to be huge.

One of the most common and most serious hurdles is the lack of computer skills.

Not having the basic knowledge or enough knowledge of computer programs and equipment is a problem many immigrants face when they arrive in Canada. In fact, after the language barrier and the lack of recognition of foreign education and work experience, it is probably the third most common operational barrier.

Settlement counselor Nadel Yacoub, who works at the Brampton Multicultural Community Centre, says that “most of the newcomers that come seeking help from our centre have no knowledge of computers, especially those who come from the Middle East and South Asia.”

Yacoub understands their frustration after they try unsuccessfully to find a job.

“It is a big barrier for them because, wherever they go looking for any office job or one related with their field, they are asked about the [computer] knowledge and (if) the answer is no, that’s a difficult situation for them…”

She explains that the job market is very competitive and sometimes it doesn’t help to have just some computer skills.

“… because when they (those hiring) give them a task they (those applying) don’t know how to proceed and they can’t get the position.”

Yacoub explains that paying thousands of dollars for specialized and intensive college courses is a good decision if you can afford it. But that’s not the case for most immigrants when they arrive in the country.

Fortunately, there are good and affordable training options available in community centers, libraries and non-profit agencies throughout Ontario.

For example, Brampton Multicultural Community Centre – as well as other non-profit organizations across the Greater Toronto Area – offer a wide range of computer programs for newcomers, from basic to advanced level.

“We charge a minimum affordable fee for our courses, and each one is two weeks long at most, or about 30 hours,” says Yacoub.

Because the courses are customized to meet the needs of the Canadian workplace, students are able to apply for a number of positions in the job market after just a few weeks.

Class hours are flexible – mornings, evenings, weekends – to allow students to choose the best time for them while they keep looking for work.

Yacoub explains that manuals and books are included in the program and covered in the fees, so there are no extra costs.

Practicing is an important part of the learning process. “In our centre, students can use our Access Centre, where they use the computer for free while they are taking a course and after finishing it.”

At Brampton Multicultural Community Centre, students receive a certificate upon completion of the courses. “We also prepare them for the job interview and test.”

For more information about these courses, call 905-790-8482.


Where To Go

Most agencies offer basic courses like Microsoft Office (which includes some of the most common programs, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint).

Many offer more advanced courses like PC Computer Technician (software and hardware), Website Designing, or Basic Accounting (ACCPAC integrated accounting package), just to mention a few. If you don’t know where these courses are available in your neighbourhood, you can contact the school boards, libraries, continuing or adult education programs.

Costi Language & Skills Training Services Centre

In Toronto, the Costi Language & Skills Training Services Centre offers computer-training courses.

Microsoft Training: Microsoft software. These courses help students learn the skills necessary to begin using Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Word separately. There is a service fee for Microsoft training courses: $150 each.
Simply Accounting: These courses help students develop the skills necessary to begin using Simply Accounting – the industry standard in small and home scale businesses. Fee: $180
ACCPAC Accounting: Learn how to use ACCPAC – the industry standard in medium to large scale businesses. The course instructor will cover general ledger, accounts payable, and accounts receivable functions for small business. Fee: $225
For more information contact Language & Skills Training Services, Toronto
700 Caledonia Road Toronto, Ontario M6B 3X7
Phone: 416-789-7925 / email:

Skills for Change

Skills for Change and its TechSkills program offers hands-on, instructor-led training in the latest software applications in the areas of accounting, Microsoft Office applications, IT, engineering, project management, quality assurance and trades.
Courses are structured to encourage beginners and professionals to start at the level that matches their skills and to lead them progressively to more advanced topics.

Registration is in person (791 St. Clair Avenue West), by phone (416-658-3101 ext. 216), or online by visiting the website: These courses are not free and the fee depends on the course.


A non-profit organization located at 2930 Lakeshore Blvd. West in Toronto, has also a Computer Learning Training Centre.
All courses there are free to individuals currently registered in one of JobStart’s employment programs. Using Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Program curriculum, JobStart offers computer fundamentals training courses (successful graduates will receive a Microsoft Certificate) which includes: Digital Literacy, Computer Fundamentals, Word Processing Fundamentals, Spreadsheet Fundamentals (Excel), Presentation Fundamentals (PowerPoint), Database Fundamentals, Web Design Fundamentals.
Each course is led and supported by an Instructor and ranges from 10-24 hours in length. Upon completion participants will receive a “Microsoft Unlimited Potential Certificate”.

Contact JobStart for further information.
Phone: 416-231-2295, ext. 2994/ email:

Community MicroSkills Development Centre

This is a non-profit, community-based organization for unemployed people, with priority to women, youth, racial minorities and immigrants. The organization offers several programs, full-time, part-time and evening, that assist individuals to enhance their technology skills for the local labour market.

MicroSkills’ Women’s Technology Institute (WTI) offers women comprehensive IT training in three levels: basic, standard and advanced.
Programs are also available for women and men in receipt of social assistance or employment insurance who need to upgrade their computer skills to qualify for jobs in sales and customer service, administration, accounting and technical support.
MicroSkills programs prepare individuals for a variety of industry recognized IT certifications such as Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS), CompTIA A+ and Net+, and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA). Programs also include basic business and job search skills, work experience placements at employer sites and assistance in finding a job.

There are several locations you can attend, around Toronto and Etobicoke. For more information visit or call 416-247-7181 or toll free 1-877-979-3999.

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