JVS Toronto and JIAS Canada meeting with Jewish Family Service Agency, Vancouver
Since 1990 the number of immigrants settling into smaller communities across Canada has increased immensely. While there has been an influx in the demand for skilled workers in many of these communities, due to “job readiness” issues, including language barriers, lack of Canadian work experience and recognition of education and work credentials, new immigrants have difficulty successfully integrating into local economies and into jobs that are equivalent with their skills and international experience.
It was estimated that by the year 2011 almost 100 percent of Canada’s net labour force will be dependent on immigration. This evident urgency of integrating newcomers to be full economic participants in Canadian society has driven governmental and non-governmental organizations to develop and offer many programs and services for newcomers. Yet recent reports indicate that between $4 billion and $6 billion is lost to the Canadian economy each year as a result of unrecognized qualifications, and that immigrants are among those who experience the most serious problems in achieving recognition for their skills and experience.
Drawing from its vast experience in providing various services to newcomers and successfully connecting them with other service providers and employers in the GTA, JVS Toronto, in partnership with JIAS Canada, decided to study the challenges faced by newcomers and explore the gaps in current ethnic settlement agency referral models as well as in services that provide direct connections with employers. The impetus for this study was the need to integrate newcomers into Canadian society, increase retention of newcomers and eliminate the economic cost to any community when skills of newcomers are not recognized.
The objectives of the study were:
• to identify challenges and gaps in existing referral services and explore employment support programs by conducting assessments and researching existing settlement and employment services in accordance with client needs
• to enhance services of family settlement agencies by introducing a new bridging services collaborative delivery model to promote effective utilization of existing services
• to increase comprehensive understanding of immigrant employment issues by developing a new curriculum for family settlement agencies that is focused on facilitating the bridging of newcomers into local community services.
To get the best results by ensuring that all objectives were met and existing problems eliminated or reduced, JVS Toronto and JIAS Canada actively worked with Jewish settlement organizations and mainstream employment organizations in three communities in Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg. To collect the information required for this study, a qualitative research approach was applied.
The findings of the research confirmed the outcomes of other research studies on immigrants’ adaptation issues, and clearly indicated that the number one need for foreign trained Jewish newcomers, who were a focal point of this study, was finding employment in their chosen field. Major challenges to employment listed by study participants were: a lack of understanding of the Canadian structure of services and value of available employment support programs, insufficient knowledge of the Canadian job market and workplace, inadequate flow of information between settlement and employment agencies as well as a lack of ongoing employment support and connections to employers. These are both personal and institutional barriers to employment.
The review of existing services in targeted communities indicated that there were many services and programs available for newcomers that provide job search training, specific occupational training and job placement as well as work experience opportunities. Yet existing services were not effectively utilized by newcomers and community partners.
Responding to community needs, a new needs-based, community-based, culturally specific and results oriented Bridging Settlement and Employment Services Model has been developed. The model provides a framework for advanced referral services and connecting newcomers with local employers. It consists of three pillars: Advanced Referral System, Proactive Job Development and Coalition Building.
The Advanced Referral component introduces an Employability Assessment model currently used by Employment Service Providers to settlement workers and adds a strong follow-up component at multiple points of the existing model. Settlement workers will be able to define clients’ job readiness level at their first contact point, prior to making referrals to employment interventions. These features will ensure effective linking of newcomers with the most appropriate services and will ultimately reduce the time needed to find employment.
The Job Development component provides a framework for settlement agency staff and service providers working with local employers. It calls for tapping into both mainstream and ethnic pools of employers. Offering and providing recruitment and HR services for employers by settlement agencies and employment service providers as well as sharing a database of available newcomer job seekers would result in increased employment opportunities for newcomers.
The model was developed on the premise that an ethnic settlement agency acts not only as a first step leading to referrals but also takes a more in depth approach to service delivery. The guiding principle for the program design was to build cooperative relationships with local service providers, government, funders, volunteers and local employers. The relationships should be characterized by respect, sharing information, existing resources, knowledge and experience.
The Bridging Settlement and Employment Service Delivery Model can be replicated with other ethno-specific agencies facing similar challenges to successfully integrate newcomers into local Canadian labour markets.