Career mentorship program bridges employment gap in Canadian immigration system

Staff of the Skills Connect for Immigrants Program. | Photo by Selena Sun

Staff of the Skills Connect for Immigrants Program. | Photo by Selena Sun

Vancouver needs skilled labour from abroad, but once workers arrive, they need local support to be successful. As Paul Mochrine, general manager of human resources for the City of Vancouver says, “Canada’s future prosperity is highly dependent on attracting talented, motivated immigrants and supporting their integration into our labour market. Particularly for a city that is working to position itself as a global trade gateway, the recruitment of international talent is an absolute imperative.”

However, working professionals face major barriers after immigrating to Canada. Sane Lai, an information technologist back in Taiwan, shares her experience of adjusting to Canadian work culture over the past 6 months:

“I have no friends or connection here. I don’t even know what a resume looks like in this country.”

“I always feel frustrated in my poor English. As you know, job seeking in Vancouver is not easy, especially for new immigrants. Sometimes I feel very vulnerable. Now I am between jobs. I have to start with very entry [level] work which is not related with my career,” states Ken Kyuung Cho, a long-term electronics sales and marketing manager from South Korea.

Many immigrants who are trained professionals with specialized skills in their home countries face cultural challenges as they join the Canadian labour force. Examples of these challenges include networking and learning how to target their skills towards specific industries in the job market. As a result, many immigrants lose their identity as working professionals in their specialized fields.

The Skills Connect for Immigrants Program was created to address and avoid these scenarios. With funding from both the provincial and federal governments, the purpose of the program is to connect immigrants to the local job market in Canada and provide employment support for international foreign-trained professionals.

The program, which is offered through third-part service agencies in the Lower Mainland, provides skill training workshops, online learning sessions and networking events for immigrants. Customized to the individual needs of each participant, the program sets them up with career strategists and counsellors to map out a career path alongside their settlement process.

The most important aspect of the program is the mentorship component. According to Eileen Wang, manager of the Skills Connect Program at Training Innovations, local experience is crucial for immigrants to pursue their careers and survive in a city like Vancouver.

“Opportunities need to be provided in order for this to happen. Mentors provide specific industry information and guidance, which brings an understanding of the real work culture of the industry through job shadowing,” says Wang.

For Wang, the biggest reward of her work is to help newcomers find professional work and make their lives a bit easier.

“It’s sad for us to see people being here for fifteen years and still being stuck in survival jobs. Now to see people come here after seven months and find meaningful work – it’s really rewarding for us.”

In order to address local economic needs, priorities must be set on finding meaningful employment for immigrants.

“For immigrants to settle in a country without a job and without the right support is a joke,” Wang states.

Immigrants without the right career transitioning support end up in a cycle of depending on survival jobs and income assistance, in which they are blamed for damaging the Canadian social system.

“We tend to hear negative things about how immigrants don’t contribute to economic development when they do and businesses love them. Behind the scenes, there are people who work really hard to bridge the gap between local businesses and immigrants. And the government really needs to know this.”

For more information about the Skills Connect Program, please