Women newcomers get job-ready skills to enter B.C.’s high-tech industry

Tech jobs are in high demand.

A partnership between Immigrant Services Society of B.C. (ISSofBC) and Emily Carr University of Art and Design invites women, immigrants and refugees to develop job-ready skills to support B.C.’s high tech sector.

This program opened my eyes to the Canadian job market and workplace expectations,” says Saba Farheen, a student currently enrolled in courses through TechWomen. “It’s not only technical − it’s English, it’s what to say, what to expect from others, what to expect on the job. You learn so many things that can’t be put into words.”

A pre-employment program

Last fall, 10 women enrolled in Emily Carr’s continuing educations studies to complete web design courses such as Adobe suite, industrial design, architectural design and more. Access to these free courses were made possible through a tech training program called TechWomen, offered by ISSofBC.

TechWomen, a pre-employment program, encourages newcomers to upgrade their basic computer skills with Adobe suite and industrial design for re-entering the Canadian workforce or for building a career in the tech industry.

“Through industry dialogue we’ve been able to bring people together and make new things happen in terms of possibilities for different segments of the population who are underserved,” says Kate Armstrong, artist, curator and director of Startland at Emily Carr University.

Startland is an initiative that supports creative projects, social ventures and entrepreneurship in art and design at Emily Carr. It was formed around the same time approximately 3,000 Syrian refugees arrived in B.C., spurring conversations on how B.C.’s tech sector should be better equipped to support skilled workers emigrating from other countries. Through discussions with industry stakeholders, TechWomen was formed.

Skilled workers in tech industry in demand

Armstrong explains tech jobs are in high demand around the world, so filling these types of roles are competitive for B.C. based companies. A framework would benefit both businesses and immigrants entering the technology sector in B.C.

Kate Armstrong, director of Startland, Emily Carr University. | Photo courtesy of Kate Armstrong

“Programs like TechWomen help facilitate and close gaps in recruiting skilled people for the B.C. tech industry,” says Armstrong. “It gives people a chance to do what they want to do professionally, which is especially true for newcomers to Canada who have a background in technology, design, or as teachers. It’s important for them to be able to flow into the sector in a way that makes sense, not do some other job.”

Anitha Amarnath left India in 2017, immigrating to Canada with her husband and three-year-old son. She enrolled in TechWomen and gives credit to the program for helping her identify specific career goals to work towards. Amarnath took web design and development introductory courses and has now developed a professional website to support her resume and job search.

“All of the components of this program have helped me carve a path toward reaching my professional goals,” says Amarnath. “The practical, activities-based learning has not only provided me with critical technical skills, but helped lay the foundation of understanding and engaging in Canadian culture and ways of interacting.”

Learn more at www.issbc.org