Anne Peters looked out her office window, glanced skyward, and said a silent “thank you.” After three years of futile job hunting, she felt she had finally arrived and found a challenging job with the promise of a real career. “It was a pretty emotional day,” she recalls.
Peters is one of thousands of new immigrants to Canada in an age-old paradox. She couldn’t get a job without experience, and had no job to gain that experience.
In her case, she had the experience – years of it in human resources – in her native Trinidad. When she immigrated to Canada, though, she found a familiar story: credentials that weren’t taken as seriously as Canadian ones, and experience that simply “wasn’t Canadian.”
But with three degrees and two certificates, she was qualified, and like many professional immigrants, started wondering if she had done the right thing coming to Canada.
In 2007, things started to turn around. Peters connected with Career Edge, a not-for-profit organization, through their Career Bridge Program. She has not looked back since.
The Ontario Public Service (OPS) is one of many organizations currently taking part in programs like Career Bridge that help connect a foreign-trained professional’s past with their Canadian future.
Ontario does this with the OPS Internship Program for Internationally Trained Individuals (ITIs), which provides relevant Canadian work experience for eligible newcomers through six-month paid internships across the public service.
Through the ITI program and Career Bridge, Peters and 220 other ITIs participated in placements across the province. She landed a spot in occupational health and safety at the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
“I was welcomed by everyone, and was able to work on a number of projects and programs to the point where I had to remind myself that I was an intern,” she says.
More than 80 percent of participating interns have gone on to find full-time work in their profession. Peters is now the diversity coordinator at the Ministry of the Attorney General, fittingly helping that ministry become a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
A key goal of the OPS is to be an inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible organization. One way to add value to the organization is by tapping into the province’s pool of internationally trained talent.
“The employers that participate in our paid internship programs have found that it’s a valuable stream to bring fresh, new, energetic talent into their organizations,” said Janice Rudkowski, director of marketing and communications at Career Edge. “The OPS is supporting Ontario’s business community and demonstrating their leadership by providing internationally trained individuals with meaningful Canadian work experience that these professionals can now leverage with other employers.”
For further information on the OPS Internship Program for Internationally Trained Individuals, please see the OPS careers website at www.gojobs.gov.on.ca, and click on Youth and New Professionals and then, Newcomers to Ontario.
Jason Okamura is a Senior Communications Consultant with the Ontario Ministry of Government Services.