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Alberta charity connects new Canadians to construction careers

Russell Hixson
Alberta charity connects new Canadians to construction careers
ACTION FOR HEALTHY COMMUNITIES - A group of new Canadians in Edmonton get a taste of working in the drywall industry at an event organized by Action For Healthy Communities, Ideal Contracting and the Alberta Wall and Ceiling Association.

Construction companies and an Edmonton charity are hoping to connect new Canadians with construction careers through a series of creative programs and events.

At a recent event, Ideal Contract Services and the Alberta Wall and Ceiling Association worked with Action For Healthy Communities (A4HC) to show dozens of participants basic construction skills like drilling, painting, mudding and taping drywall.

While Ideal has hosted similar events with high school students, it is the first time they have targeted new Canadians.

“Ideal Construction brought in a group of newcomers to experience the different types of skills required for the industry,” said Suzana Dumo, settlement and integration program manager for A4HC. “The event saw newcomers who came to participate in different activities regarding skills that are involved in the drywall construction, see what is required and get an orientation of the industry.”

It’s only the most recent event of its type A4HC has helped organize. Last year the charity worked with Stuart Olson which opened its housing complex projects in Northeast Edmonton to new Canadians looking to get a taste of trades work.

“We helped connect some newcomers to these jobs and if you got a job it would count towards your apprenticeship. It gives them a bit of an advantage in advancing in whatever trades they are interested in.”

Dumo explained that one of the biggest barriers the newcomer population faces while finding a construction career is an awareness of the specific jobs in the industry.

“Part of the process of trying to address this is to create job exposure and awareness and building partnerships with stakeholders around specific jobs and prepare training for those types of jobs,” she said. “There are also newcomers that have had experience or exposure to construction where they come from, but don’t know how to connect to jobs here.”

Once the awareness is there, they must be trained. In the case of the drywall industry, A4HC is currently working with the Alberta Wall and Ceiling Association to develop a pre-employment program for immigrants and refugees interested in working in wall and ceiling trades. It has also supported some newcomers skilled in trades in taking challenge tests rather then go through the lengthy apprenticeship process.

“There are people who are way advanced in their skills but don’t have the credentials and just need a bit of direction to connect to jobs in the industry,” said Dumo.

Another issue new Canadians face is overcoming language barriers when trying to obtain training and certifications. Currently the charity is working with the CLAC Foundation to provide newcomers with safety training. The plan is to find bilingual community members, train them and then utilize them to assist others as they prepare to take certification tests.  

Andrea Streisel explained that the programs and jobs exposure are also a learning experience for participating companies who may be hesitant about hiring someone with lower language skills or experience in another country.

“It’s a new way of engagement,” said Streisel. “If you have to go through an interview and training process the stakes are so high. In this case, the mystery and scariness goes away. Businesses realize that it is not so scary to have someone who is new to Canada.”

Dumo said the charity is always looking for companies with ideas for exposing new Canadians to jobs and encouraged those with ideas to contact her at suzana.dumo@a4hc.ca.

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