Last Updated: September 17, 2017

When and what to talk about


The topic of work will in all likelihood be addressed in very early conversations with the newcomer. In preparation, sponsor groups should ideally set up an “employment sub-committee” of two to three individuals and develop an outline of a general plan for how to approach the subject of employment with the newcomer. Much will next depend upon the circumstances, expectations, and desires of the newcomers, about whom very little may have been known before their arrival.


In these early conversations with newcomers, it should be clearly explained that employment will be approached as a series of ongoing discussions. Expectations can be clearly set as to when and how those discussions will take place and that a plan will be jointly developed to help the newcomer find the best possible work. (See article on Elements of an employment strategy.)


Women and youth

Depending on the newcomer’s family composition, there may be several adults who will be looking for work. With married couples, there may a desire for only one of the spouses to work. This issue should be approached with sensitivity and in conjunction with ongoing discussion around financial realities, budgeting and cultural differences regarding female employment in Canada. Additionally, there may be discussion concerning whether and when younger members of the family will or should begin looking for employment. While the immediate priority for newcomer youth should ideally be learning English, financial realities may dictate that younger members begin working soon after arrival, on a part-time basis, if not on a full-time basis.
Ultimately, it is the newcomers’ decision as to who in the family will work and when. (See articles on “Cultural sensitivity in work discussions” and “Programs for youth (under 30) in Ontario” and external links under “Women” and “Youth“.)


Balancing the needs to study English and begin work

There are differing points of view on when ongoing discussions about work should begin —  no hard and fast rules exist. Timing can be decided based on what works best for each newcomer and those supporting them. It will also vary depending on the English proficiency level of the newcomer and the need and desire to attend English classes. An assessment of English proficiency should be conducted as soon as possible, after arrival, to determine the newcomer’s CLB level, based upon the Canadian Language Benchmark standards. (The assessment is done by the YMCA in Toronto and by The Centre for Education & Training in the rest of the GTA.) See article on Canadian Language Benchmarks.


In employment discussions, the need or desire to work should be put into context, relative to the importance of studying English. For newcomers with low English proficiency, it is important to explain early on why focusing on English should be a priority in the first year, both in terms of overall settlement and also to ensure better long term employment options. (See article on “English vs. work in the first year.”)


With a newcomer possessing CLB English Level 7 or higher, studying English can be less of a priority and the individual could begin looking for work immediately. Sector-specific English could be improved as part of a bridging program (see article on Bridging programs) and general English courses could be undertaken as an evening study program.  In the case of these newcomers, the discussion about finding employment will likely start in the very first weeks after arrival.


For newcomers with lower English proficiency, who need English classes, a suggested approach might be that discussions and planning around employment should begin once initial settlement priorities, i.e., housing, clothing, government paperwork/applications, school/ESL, and immediate health concerns, have been addressed. One might typically expect this to be around Month 2 or 3. However, the newcomer should understand from the very beginning, that it is best for there to be a plan established to help them find employment and who in the group will be working with them to that end.


Newcomers with lower English proficiency who want to start working right away can also be assisted with their employment search, right from the beginning. Ideally, this would be part-time work which can accommodate simultaneous ESL participation, but if studying English is not to be pursued, the job search planning process should begin immediately.


Obtaining a driver’s licence


The concept of working as an “employee” vs an “independent contractor”



Discussion topics during the first year:


Pre-arrival, within a sponsorship group:


Soon after the newcomer’s arrival:


When formulating a plan with the newcomer:


When preparation for a job search begins:


After the newcomer’s first hire: