An interview with the people of Success Skills Centre
Getting a job is one of the most urgent concerns that newcomers have upon arriving in Manitoba. Fortunately, free expert assistance and support from several settlement agencies are available here. Foremost among these agencies is Success Skills Centre. Success Skills has been helping newcomers get meaningful employment for over 34 years now (read Success Skills Centre: Leveraging international skills to enrich the Canadian workforce) and specialize in getting them back to practicing their occupations or related occupations
We had a chance to talk to Monika G. Feist, Chief Executive Officer of Success and Ha Nguyen, Labour Market Specialist, about the newcomer experience related to career building and workplace integration in MB. Here are some of their invaluable insights:
English Online (EO): What do you see as the biggest challenge for newly-arrived immigrants or immigrants in general when it comes to building a career in Manitoba?
Monika Feist & Ha Nguyen (MF/HN): We think the biggest challenge our clients have before they come to Success is too much information. They ask around and maybe a neighbor would say, for example, “forget about your degree, forget about your experience working as an engineer or accountant. If you want to get into your field, you have to go back to school.” They get a lot of information like this that may not be accurate. This is what confuses them.
We recently had a client who has been here in Manitoba since 2014. When he arrived, he was told to go for a homecare job, even if he had years of experience as an architect and project management in construction. Even though he heard about Success Skills, he got a job in homecare. And since he needed more money, he signed up for another job. This is not an unusual situation; then later, they become comfortable with their income and gradually forget about their career. Then one of his friends, who also has experience in the architectural field, came to Canada and stayed with his family. He strongly recommended him to go to Success Skills, which the friend did. As soon as the friend received a job offer in his area of expertise, this ‘homecare’ client then also approached Success Skills for assistance. He was amazed to receive a job offer after two job interviews to work as a Project Coordinator.
EO: In your experience, are there specific professions/fields where newcomers can find the greatest opportunities? Are there certain sectors that are more welcoming to newcomers?
MF/HN: There may be times when certain industries may be up and down, but in general, there tends to be room for someone with the right attitude and the right work ethic to get there. Having the right attitude, carrying on in the job search, and not giving up is a big part of success. There is no set formula for everybody. You just have to be prepared to work hard. The clients who get to ring the “success” bell at the Success Skills Office are those who put in the effort and are consistent in their job search. We tell them when they train here that their full-time job right now is looking for their job. They should concentrate their efforts on that.
EO: What is the most common career mistake that immigrants make when they are looking for jobs and start out to build their careers here?
MF/HN: The thinking that “when I arrive in Canada, I can work in my field right away because I have the right set of skills.” When this doesn’t happen, they feel frustrated and they don’t know what is wrong. Sometimes, they lack language proficiency. Most of the time, it’s not at the level needed for their profession. Recently, we had an accountant who came here and said that he’s very good at his job and can work as an accountant. He was told that he needed to get his language level up first in order for him to start the process of obtaining his CPA designation. He did start working, but as a bookkeeper for now.
We think one of the biggest mistakes is to believe that you can’t get your certification recognition. There is a constant story going around that you can’t get it, which is absolutely not true! But it does mean that you still have to work for it. One of the things we do for clients is to see if they are ready for assessment. That’s what the counsellors are doing here with them when they start the one-on-one meetings. Usually, it’s a matter of learning the language, at least to CLB 7 plus, to be able to write the exams. If they don’t understand the questions, it’s a problem and they fail. They need to realize that language is important. They need to learn it in order to practice their professions here.
EO: Once employed, newcomers must adapt to the corporate culture, the environment, and learn many new things. This can be overwhelming. What is your best advice for them to be able to cope?
MF/HN: We deliver a program called HOP (Hands-On Practicum) which goes for two weeks. The reason why we hold it for two weeks is to make sure that our clients not only get the job, but that they also keep the job. The program focuses a lot on soft skills, Canadian and workplace communications. We also watch videos from Dr. Lionel Laroche about Canadian workplace culture which are very helpful. We also have a session that is all about keeping the job. We give them a lot of scenarios with some past cases and share experiences with them. We also encourage them to tell us if they have any issues or questions when they are already on the job. We always leave our door open to help. For example, we had a client who is an architect. He arrived a few days before he came to Success Skills and he finished the two-week program. He then applied for a job and got an offer within a month of his arrival. After four months on the job, he sent me an email saying he was doing well and mentioned that he would take training for clients who are on the job when Success Skills offers.
EO: Are you optimistic about the Labour Market Outlook in Manitoba in general? What positive opportunities/prospects do you foresee coming to the province at present or in the near future?
MF/HN: The labour market in Manitoba is going strong. There are a lot of jobs in various fields like construction, information technology, accounting, sales and services. Companies are always looking for people, especially in accounting. We’re very positive about the labour market outlook for the province.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
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