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.)
- Work-related discussions need to be regular and iterative — they involve lots of probing around uncovering the newcomer’s skills and experience, as well as identifying and understanding their expectations, preferences, and interests and their suitability for various types of work. There may be a need to set or re-set expectations around the type and timing of work . (See article on Dealing with unrealistic expectations.]
- These discussions evolve over time, as increased trust develops with the newcomer. Some newcomers may never have considered multiple employment options or choices and hence it can all feel quite overwhelming. Time is needed to reflect on new information between conversations before moving forward.
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
- Consideration should be given to having a newcomer in Ontario obtain his or her G1 or G2 driver’s license as soon as possible. Having a driver’s license can be a valuable asset for some types of work. The reason for obtaining a G1 or G2 licence as soon as possible is that, in Ontario, without a still-valid foreign licence, one may have to wait twelve months after the G1 or G2 is issued, before being eligible for a G2 or full G. G2 is the level that permits driving without another G2 or higher licenced driver in the vehicle. Especially if the newcomer already knows how to drive, the sooner this clock starts ticking, the better. For more information see “Getting your driver’s license“.
The concept of working as an “employee” vs an “independent contractor”
- Newcomers should understand that if they are considering offering their services on a freelance basis, there are important business number registration, income tax, HST, employment insurance, health benefits and other issues to consider. See many links in our section on this website on “Starting a business.”
Discussion topics during the first year:
Pre-arrival, within a sponsorship group:
- Assignment of responsibility within the group to assist with employment.
- What the sponsors initially believe that success should look like.
- Research that needs, or will need, to be done by the sponsors.
Soon after the newcomer’s arrival:
- The need for an employment plan.
- How sponsors can help develop an employment plan, search for a job, and maybe even find a suitable job.
- The availability of an employment service to help, how an employment service can help, and how sponsors can collaborate with such services.
- Whether and when to apply for a G1 driver’s license.
- The implications of “Month 13”.
- Initial expectations of the newcomer and the sponsor group.
When formulating a plan with the newcomer:
- What success should look like.
- Timing and the importance of improving English proficiency vs starting work.
- Narrowing in on options to pursue:
- Past experience
- Likes and dislikes
- Skills and training
- Credentials and translations
- Income requirements
- Physical and health limitations and endurance (e.g. illnesses, lifting, standing, being out in the cold)
- Any needs for religious accommodation
- The importance of the first job and how long it should last
- Working under the table
- Cultural differences on the job
- Women in the workforce
- Daycare options
- For any skilled trades of interest, mandatory certification or the value of voluntary certification
- Opportunities for post-secondary education
- Training and bridge programs
- Volunteering as a stepping stone to employment
- Scheduling the search preparation and the job search
- Learning specialized English vocabulary for a work sector of interest
- Part-time work
- Long term employment plans and expectations when moving on to a second job
When preparation for a job search begins:
- Use of an employment service.
- Selection of an employment service.
- Collaboration between the sponsor group and an employment service.
- Employee rights and responsibilities.
- Willingness to work for, or under the supervision of, a female business owner, manager, or supervisor.
- Cultural differences in seeking work.
- Resume writing.
- Completing a job application.
- Preparing for an interview.
- Follow up after making an application or an interview.
- Practice interviews.
- Use of the sponsor network to find work.
- Networking by the newcomer among other newcomers and within sectors of interest.
- Job fairs.
- Job websites.
- Compensation and benefits
- Union membership
- Agreement with a prospective employer on objectives and performance reviews.
After the newcomer’s first hire:
- Expectations of a good employer.
- Employer expectations of a good employee.
- Issues related to termination by an employer.
- Day-to-day issues arising in the workplace.
- Periodic reviews of how the newcomer is doing in the job and what is good and needs improvement.
- Issues related to quitting.
- Ongoing mentorship.