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.

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