Left to right: Obang Ogut Kiru and Nduru Bomera network at Not Another Gala.
Hala A*, Obang and Nduru all came from different countries and circumstances, but in Canada they found themselves in the same situation: struggling to find work with limited English.
“It’s difficult, nearly impossible, to find legal, sustainable work when you don’t have the language” says Manager of Employment Services, Bashir Shahbaz. Bashir and his team are leading an exciting pilot, called the Working Together Employment Program, a three year IRCC funded program that provides on-the-job language training and support. “Newcomers should not have to choose between school or work, with this program, they can have both.’’
“Before I had the job, I felt like I had nothing, now I feel like I have a life, I can do anything.”
– Hala A*
The program was launched in the summer of 2018 and bridges the gap between government assisted refugees looking for work, and vacant job placements existing in our region. Coming to Canada with limited or even no English language skills complicates every aspect of life, especially finding employment. Imagine going into an interview and not understanding the questions; or trying to decipher a job posting when you are just learning to read. Many newcomers lack references and social connections, knowledge of the local job market and the language to get hired.
Through partnerships with the Literacy Group, JD Sweid Foods, the Centre for Community Based Research, and others, The Working Together Employment Program provides onsite workplace language learning opportunities.
“The commitment we see in newcomers such as Hala A*, Obang and Nduru, to learning and advancing their prospects against all odds is truly inspiring.’’ says Aracy Selvakumar, Program Assistant.
Obang Ogut Kiru, an Ethiopian father of four works the overnight shift at JD Sweid Foods, and takes additional language classes during the day.
“Learning English is the only way. I need to learn English to make my life here better, to be able to provide for myself and my family” he says.
Similarly, Hala A*, a young woman from Syria says the program has given her freedom. “Before I had the job, I felt like I had nothing, now I feel like I have a life, I can do anything, I can pay my bills… I feel independant”. Hala A*’s confidence shines through, as she is now able to comfortably communicate without an interpreter. Her hard work and commitment has reaped rewards; Hala A* was promoted to “on-the-job trainer”, where she is responsible for training new workers and orienting them to the JD Sweid Foods job site.
As for Nduru? Many Nduru Bomera’s age would be planning their retirement. For 25 years, Nduru worked as a farmer and small shop owner in Congo. Coming to urban Kitchener in 2018 meant starting a career in a new field. “It’s not easy to learn a new language later in life, but Nduru is committed. “I see the value it will bring” he says.
Hala A*, Obang and Nduru have all benefited from the 5+ hours of language instruction per week at their workplace. The classes facilitated by the Literacy Group are tailored to the worker’s schedule and the vocabulary they need for their role. All three of these individuals have had extraordinary success, both in retaining employment and gaining independence through language learning.
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