BM secures part-time painting work – a success for him personally and professionally
BM, a 25 year-old young man from Syria, arrived in Canada in February 2015 with his wife and their three year-old son. They were sponsored by a group affiliated with a Toronto church, under a BVOR sponsorship. Unlike most Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSR’s), BM did not have friends or family waiting for him in Toronto. Upon arrival, both BM and his wife were assessed at CLB English level 0, meaning that they did not even have an initial ability to communicate in English.
Within a few weeks of their arrival, the young family were settled in an apartment and enrolled in English classes four mornings per week. BM was committed to his English classes and his English proficiency began to gradually improve. What did not improve was his morale… BM felt restless and was often bored in the afternoons – he spent time on his phone or their family laptop working on his English. He ran errands as needed, but he felt aimless and despondent and was often pre-occupied with thoughts about family in Syria and worries about the future.
Before coming to Canada, BM had been working since his teenage years. He had helped his father in their family clothing store, worked in a restaurant (cooking, prepping, cleaning, dish-washing) and also as a painter and general labourer. Work brought him feelings of self-worth and accomplishment. Without it, he lacked a rudder.
Starting work as a painter through sponsor group connections
BM had informed his sponsor group that his work background in Syria and Jordan included working as a painter and that he would like to pursue painting as his long term employment goal in Canada. After a few months, members of the group put the word out to their social and professional networks. Eventually, BM was put in contact with a local property management firm that needed frequent, but irregular painting in locations around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA.)
BM began working for this company on his weekdays “off” from school, on some afternoons, and on weekends, at around Month 6 (counting from his arrival in Canada.) The change to his mood and confidence was almost immediate – he was excited to be feeling productive again and he proudly navigated public transportation getting to and from the various work sites.
Over the next few months, BM was offered some work by the owner of a concrete finishing company; a colleague of the first property manager. Through this second employer, starting at Month 7, BM did some painting work in educational institutions and larger buildings. As well, he worked with English-speaking painters who helped him improve his occupation-specific vocabulary and acquire his own painting supplies.
Enrolling in a bridge training program
Around Month 12, BM’s sponsor group became aware of the Construction Trades Training program offered through ACCES Employment. Thinking that construction experience would be good complement to his painting skills and could enhance his long-term prospects of finding well-paying, full-time work, BM decided with his group to enroll in the program. After four months of sector-specific language training through the program, BM and the group re-assessed his options – he could apply for one month of pre-apprenticeship training with the LiUNA labourers union or work with his sponsor group and ACCES Employment to look for full-time work as a painter. At the time of writing, BM was awaiting assessment by LiUNA for inclusion in the pre-apprenticeship program.
Early success on many levels
We will continue to update this story, as BM’s employment journey unfolds, but for BM and his sponsor group, the initial experience with part-time painting work, was a success on many levels:
- Perhaps, most importantly, working allowed BM to experience feelings of accomplishment and improve his emotional well-being.
- The part-time work allowed BM to continue English studies during his 12-month financial sponsorship period.
- BM significantly improved his sector-specific English vocabulary in painting.
- The part-time painting work was compensated at a competitive rate and allowed BM’s family to accumulate some savings and cover some of their own expenditures, thereby lessening their reliance on their sponsor group.
- The initial work in painting was in an occupation that BM wanted to pursue long-term, and his enjoyment of this type of work confirmed his interest.
- BM was able to avoid working under the table and was able to obtain legitimate Canadian work experience and references.
- Lastly, but of some importance, BM became much more confident and knowledgeable about using public transit in Toronto.