“I want to work… Any work would be OK,” said Omar, 56, who chose Hamilton because of its substantial Yemeni community. “I don’t want to (receive) welfare, but I need it right now to survive.”
After hearing about the Immigrants Working Centre from a member of his community, Omar became the first person to sign up for its newest program, TradesLink. A rare employment program open to refugee claimants, TradesLink is designed to fill gaps in a newcomer’s education, helping them get to work quickly in fields such as construction and carpentry. With a pathway to employment that is tailor-made to address each participant’s existing skills, it helps immigrants adjust to life in Canada and reduces reliance on Ontario Works.
IWC Executive Director Ines Rios says what makes the program special is that it is responsive to both the clients’ needs and those of the local labour market. Its programming is guided by input from the Hamilton-Brantford Building Trades Council, so participants are working toward jobs that have significant vacancies in the region and need workers right away.
“Everything in this program is geared toward success in the working world,” explained Rios. “The program offers language and math training focused on working in the trades. Many of these newcomers have done this kind of work in their home country and just need some experience seeing how it’s done in Canada.”
Ontario’s construction industry has seen steady growth and projects an increasing demand for workers in the coming years. The province is expected to lose as many as 86,000 construction workers this decade due to retirement. Further, changing regulations mean there will be more apprenticeship opportunities than have been available in the past.
TradesLink, funded by $570,000 from Ontario’s Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, aims to train 180 vulnerable newcomers and is now accepting applications. Workers who complete the program will finish ready to start work: with Mohawk College credits, employment standards training and job-specific certifications. Bus tickets and childcare are also available to encourage a wider swath of newcomers to participate.
“I am (seeking) a good life and to support my family,” Omar said. “I want to work here and learn here.”
To sign up for TradesLink, contact Mimi John at the Immigrants Working Centre: 905-529-5209, ext. 261 or firstname.lastname@example.org