One of the most important elements of successful settlement and integration is career success. This is why it is quite alarming that many immigrants with excellent educational credentials and exceptional professional experience come to Manitoba only to settle for survival jobs. What causes this? Mainly two things: first, not being informed about the Canadian job market and not being ready with the specific skills required to survive in this environment.
What if I tell you that that there is a more efficient and reliable way to learn all the ins and outs of the Canadian job market? And that it’s personalized and most importantly, free?
SOPA for Manitoba was introduced in November 2015 to get pre-arrivals job-ready as early as possible. In fact, it is recommended that you take SOPA at least six months before you come to Canada. It is an IRCC-funded program created to provide the most reliable information to help immigrants arrive prepared.
English Online spoke recently to SOPA facilitators Martin Blumrich (Cultural Communication Facilitator) and Milagros Dacwag (Intake Counsellor) to learn more about this pioneering program:
What is SOPA?
Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA) is an online program that provides personalized pre-employment guidance for immigrants before they arrive in Canada. What is great about SOPA is that it does not only focus on the necessary tools in getting a job but in retaining a job as well. It can help you with the following:
- Get settlement help and referrals and make a personalized family settlement plan.
- Develop job search skills, create a targeted resume and cover letter, and prepare for job interviews.
- Understand Canadian workplace culture and practice workplace communication skills.
What courses are offered?
The program offers five courses, three facilitated (delivered by a facilitator) and two self-guided courses (resources available online).
- Job Search Strategies (6-week course) – The course will guide you through the job search process in Canada. The facilitator will teach you how to make a Canadian-style resume and cover letter, conduct an effective job search, prepare for interviews and know what do after each interview. You will also learn about essential and transferable skills and how to market yourself.
- Professional Communication (4 weeks) – Learn how to make small talk, deliver presentations, provide and accept constructive feedback, and learn how to conduct yourself in meetings.
- Working with others (4 weeks) – The course will teach you all about networking, negotiating, conflict management, and working with others.
- Canadian workplace integration (3 weeks) – Get the necessary tools to adapt to the Canadian workplace through this course. You will learn about communication styles, cultural communication, expanding your soft skills, working with differences, understanding power dynamics, and sensitive workplace norms.
- Working in Canada (3 weeks) – This course will brief you about employment contracts, negotiating contracts, workplace orientation, written rules, unwritten rules, organizational culture, workplace protections, and labour laws in Canada.
Who is eligible for SOPA?
You can register if you:
- currently live outside of Canada
- have applied for Permanent Residence in Canada
- have a good level of English (about 5.5 in the IELTS)
To apply, you need to have one of the following:
- a Canadian Permanent Resident visa, landing paper or permanent resident card
- a letter notifying you to pickup your Canadian permanent resident visa
- a medical checkup or security check notification letter.
How does SOPA work?
Milagros Dacwag is your first contact with SOPA. After you register, you will receive instructions and set a meeting with her online. Your needs will be assessed. With her help, you will develop an action plan and choose which courses you can take. You will also receive settlement advice, resources and referrals during this session.
It usually requires 5-7 hours per week for facilitated courses. This needs commitment. According to Mila and Martin, they understand that many registrants are pressed for time because they are still employed or are already busy with their preparations for moving. But considering the benefits that you will get from the courses, taking time to finish them will be a worthy investment.
Registrants who finish the program are given a certificate of completion. More importantly, they would have gained enough information, as well as an important connection in Manitoba, to propel them to career success.
To learn more about SOPA, go to their website and Youtube channel.
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