Edmonton Examiner: Immigration council focuses on conversation-making

By Mitch Goldenberg, Postmedia Edmonton, published in Edmonton Examiner on August 29, 2017

When it comes to finding people jobs, the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC) continues to rely on a method that may lack the ease and flair of technology, but serves as the tried, tested and true approach to finding work.

“Networking is one of the key components of an immigrant’s integration,” said Elena Chernaeva, the networking program director for the ERIEC. “In their countries of origin, they had that network — schoolmates, relatives, friends, colleagues. But here, they have to start from scratch.”

That reality makes events such as the upcoming Networking for Success at NAIT on Sept. 28 all the more valuable. It’s an opportunity to learn about approaching and engaging in networking conversations, as well as practice.

“I got my first job in Canada through networking at a church,” said Sarah Tangan, who emigrated from the Philippines last year. “The pastor said somebody needed help in a care home, and even though it wasn’t in my field, I needed to get a foot on the ground.”

Tangan worked in human resources in the Philippines and planned to stay at home with her five-year-old son when her husband started working in Fort McMurray. Within eight days of arriving, the 2016 wildfires burned through town, the family fled to Edmonton and Tangan needed a job.

Skilled foreign workers, however, face obstacles beyond the language barrier when looking for work in Canada.

“Engineers, for example, from Nigeria have different standards. They come here, and suddenly they are no longer engineers,” explained Eunice Dong, mentorship facilitator with ERIEC. “We have to introduce them to a network so they can get to know people with the same professional background and understand how to proceed.”

Communication is the number one barrier preventing immigrants from effectively networking, said Chernaeva, and the challenge is only growing. Census results from Statistics Canada last month showed more than 345,000 Edmontonians claimed a non-official first language, nearly double the 1996 census and a 31-per-cent increase since 2011.

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