NEW PROGRAM AIMS TO HELP IMMIGRANTS LAND JOBS TO MATCH SKILLS
BY GEOFF MATTHEWS, MONEY EDITOR
TARAS HOLLYER knew there was something amiss when he canvassed students in the college class he was teaching and discovered a collection of chemists, engineers and other seasoned professionals.
Several of the students were more qualified than he was, and were back in school for one reason only -- they had received their formal education in their countries of origin and Canadian employers were reluctant to accept their credentials.
Once in Canada, they found themselves flipping burgers, driving cabs and working convenience store counters instead of getting jobs in their area of expertise.
Ironically, said Hollyer, biotech companies in a city like Ottawa are crying out for workers with exactly the skills his students possessed.
But since many had trouble with English, as well as with several other so-called "soft skills," they were being left behind in the job market.
"One man wondered why he had gone from running a $2-million program in Dubai to working at the 7-Eleven," Hollyer said.
Starting this fall, the Ottawa company Hollyer represents is teaming up with Toronto-based World Education Services to try and close the gap between an underutilized workforce and the city's biotech sector.
"For new Canadians, the first thing we have to figure out is what they know and what does their university degree mean," said Hollyer, a program manager with Vitesse Canada Inc., the local not-for-profit organization which developed the partnership. Vitesse is a partnership between the National Research Council, the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.
World Education Services verifies academic credentials while Vitesse partner World Skills Staffing Services provides formal schooling in topics like resume preparation, interview techniques and conversational English.
Students are trained for a position in a specific company, and the course includes a four-month work term with the host firm, Hollyer said.
Total cost is about $8,000-$10,000, with the students required to pick up half the cost, he said. Hollyer estimated at least 1,000 people locally could qualify for the program. It will start this fall with a pilot class of 20 people, expanding to 50 next September and 70 in September 2004.
Article reprinting courtesy of The Ottawa Sun