Program certifies Niagara’s newcomers for success

Foreign credential recognition helps immigrants play role in filling the labour gap.

Program certifies Niagara’s newcomers for success

The days of employers having the pick of the litter when filling job openings are over.

A shortage of skilled workers is being felt across multiple job sectors, and the federal government has been stepping up efforts to attract more immigrants to fill vacancies in areas such as health care.

But skilled immigrants such as doctors and nurses have several hoops to jump through before they can see patients in Canada.

That’s where a program like the Niagara Foreign Credential Recognition Program offered through the Welland Heritage Council and Multicultural Centre comes into play. Lori Webster heads up the program along with a new Labour Market Orientation Program at the centre,

“We’re the bridge that is aware of who's coming, what are their skills and then working with employers to be able to help connect them,” Webster said.

The credentials program helps newcomers navigate their way to continuing their profession in Canada, assisting with foreign credential assessment and with the steps necessary to obtain the proper certification. The program also offers financial planning advice and, more importantly for those seeking certification, financial assistance.

One of the people the program is helped is Oluwakemi Akinyode.

Akinyode was a pharmacist back in her native Nigeria before she came to Canada in 2018 with her family.

With the help of funding from the program, she was able to defray the cost of fees she needed to gain the certification to become a pharmacist in Canada.

“I had to pay rent, I had to pay for the exams,” Akinyode said from her new home in Kincardine, where she is the pharmacist with Rexall. “it was a huge help to get that funding.”

Not that the road was short, or easy, she said. There were plenty of nights with little sleep so she could study and continue to work her job as a personal support worker to support her family.

“I would come back from work at 8:30 and would study until two or three (in the morning),” Akinyode said. “It was very, very stressful, but at the end of the day, I would have to say it was worth it.”

Webster, meanwhile, said the new Labour Market Orientation Program is something offered by the province and it’s something that complements the credentials program, which is federally run. The program will help stream newcomers from settlement to employment.

“They're providing funding for bridging opportunities,” Webster said. “I just met a new client from Uganda who did health-care administration, and I'm able to refer him to a funded community health bridging program that should help him to get education in Canadian health care to be employment ready.”

The Heritage Council got funding for the program in April 2022 and were thrilled when the program became a reality.

“This was really exciting and something we had been advocating for years,” Webster said.

Still, the process of finding employment opportunities can be a challenge, but things can work out.

To illustrate that point, Webster said she received an email from a man who was internationally trained as a psychologist.

“He’s now an immigration consultant, because he would have to get a doctorate to be a psychologist here,” Webster said.

Akinyode, meanwhile, recommends other newcomers from in-demand fields who are unable to practice in Canada should look at the program. They would be doing a job they love and, as a bonus, helping ease the labour shortage in such fields as health care.

“It’s something I’d definitely recommend,” she said. “(People) should ask for any help they can get. It’s not a journey you want to go alone.”

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: A labour shortage has created opportunities for highly skilled newcomers. Programs such as the federally funded Niagara Foreign Credential Recognition and the provincial Labour Market orientation programs are having an impact, helping newcomers fill job vacancies in fields such as health care.

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