Covid-19 update:

  • The physical offices of all employment services within the GTA have been closed to the public, in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. However, most, if not all, are continuing to operate on a virtual basis and additional employment and skills development resources have been added to their websites, including webinars. They continue to actively assist newcomers and others seeking employment and have direct contact with employers who are in need of hiring. Click on the links below to see what each service is offering online. Many programs, normally delivered in a classroom have also been converted to online formats.

There are numerous organizations in the GTA which provide employment-related support services to newcomers.

Some of these organizations, referred to as “employment service providers” or “employment services”, are under contract to deliver programs that are funded by provincial, federal or municipal government. They also run programs that are funded through donations and corporate sponsorship.

Other non-profit organizations also provide some of these programs or a less extensive range of training and employment services, including what are sometimes referred to as “pre-employment” services.

Employment services for new immigrants to Canada

What employment service providers do

Employment service providers in Ontario are contracted to deliver Employment Ontario programs funded by the provincial Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU.) As reported by the Toronto Star, Looking for a job in Ontario? Change is coming to the services that help you (Nov. 25, 2019), the provincial government is implementing significant changes to its funding model in 2020, with the objective of making its programs more effective. The plan is to establish 15 regions within the province, each with one organization appointed to oversee programs in that region.

Currently, the pre-hire and hiring services that Employment Ontario service providers offer may be either “assisted” or “unassisted/self-directed”, or a combination of both, and include:

  • An assessment of individual needs, taking into account a client’s demographics, education, any indicators of personal impediments to work performance, interpersonal skills, susceptibility to unfavourable market perceptions, motivation, employment expectations, self-marketing ability, and any personal stability issues.
  • A determination of the appropriateness and types of services to be provided to a client, including whether assisted or unassisted, self-directed (based upon its assessment of individual needs.)
  • Assisted services for a client, including development of an Employment Service Plan, which is to include clear achievable goals; the building on or matching of skills, interests and needs identified by employers or in relation to labour market information; identification of steps to reach the goals; methods for monitoring progress; evidence of personal ownership by the client; an indication that supports are in place for job search or training/education; and an indication of ongoing monitoring and that supports are in place as needed; with the plan to be updated over time.

Assisted services also include:

  • One-on-one client assistance, which may be offered in the newcomer’s own language, depending upon resources available
  • Preparation of a client for the job market
  • Credential evaluation assistance
  • Provision of information and resources
  • Connection of clients with education and training programs, some of which may be sector-specific and organized by the employment service, itself
  • Support for client access to other required services and programs, such as literacy, language courses, settlement services or any other services that support the client employability and resolve possible stability issues
  • Help with the preparation of resumes, cover letters and interview follow-up letters, as well as for interviews (including resume critiquing and mock interviews)
  • Help with job search and placement, including through job fairs organized by the Employment Service
  • Help with negotiation of employment terms
  • Facilitation of financial incentives for an employer hiring a client
  • Identification of workplace issues that may arise for a particular client and support in finding or arranging a good employment environment;
  • Access to mentoring opportunities
  • Workshops and seminars on many of the above topics and
  • Provision of financial support to remove barriers to participation in workshops and training programs by the client.

Employment services do, in some cases, help clients move into second careers. However, these individuals must already have been laid off, must not be in management, and must be collecting Employment Insurance. The objective of this service is re-education. This program is also open to those who are under-employed (i.e. part-time only.)

Unassisted, self-directed services for clients who are computer-literate and have a sufficient level of English proficiency, include:

  • Guidance and resources, which could be in-office or online and might take the form of workshops or seminars, to support independent job searches (such as labour market information, self-assessment tools, resume builder and cover letter templates, interview preparation tips, LinkedIn profile writing, researching employers; basic computer skills; and job retention)
  • Access to a desk, computers, copiers, printers, faxes, and phones
  • Speaker and networking opportunities
  • Participation at job fairs
  • Job Board and community event information and
  • Referrals to other employment services and programs. (Every Employment Service provider in Ontario “must provide its clients with information on and referrals to all Employment Ontario employment and training programs and services, whether or not the service provider is contracted to deliver that program or service… [They must] match customers with the service and provider that best meet their needs in the fewest possible steps, even if this means referring them to another provider when the referring provider also delivers the service”)

If a client is only accessing unassisted, self-directed services, there will normally be no follow up by a job counsellor.

Employment Services may also offer post-hire, on-going, job-coaching and mentoring services, as well as various on-the job, training supports.

See also, “Employment Service Program Guidelines”, a document which is provided to employment service providers under contract with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Some of the employment-related programs offered by employment services which are federally funded, include for example, summer jobs for students, language training in the workplace, enhanced language training (ELT), and sector-specific training and job search programs for internationally-trained professionals, in fields such as engineering human resources, IT, sales and marketing, and supply chain management.

The following employment services in the GTA have programs specifically designed for newcomers, which can be found in the Programs section of this website:

In the Spring of 2020, a new website, Compass to Connect, was launched by The Centre for Education and Training, with funding from IRCC. Its purpose is to help newcomers in Canada find free settlement services, around their area, including with respect to training and employment. The purpose of this program is to make it convenient for individuals send their requests to multiple service providers from their home. Users, after creating an account on the site, can select from over 60 free services & find service providers of their choice. Initially, in the current pilot phase, use of the website is only available to IRCC clients in the Regions of Peel and Halton.

To find all employment services in the GTA, go to the FindHelp website.

CASIP (Consortium of Agencies Serving Internationally-Trained Persons)

CASIP is a consortium of independent, community-based agencies and colleges, which deliver employment and training services to skilled immigrant job seekers and to employers. Its membership consists of the following organizations:

CASIP members share job postings, information and tools for service delivery across their network.

Community Colleges

Community Colleges in Ontario, in addition to any employment services which they may provide, offer a variety of bridging programs for internationally-trained newcomers. For more information on this topic, see our separate post, Training programs in various occupations.

What other non-profit organizations offer in terms of employment help

Aside from Employment Services under contract to deliver Employment Ontario programs, other community-based and non-profit organizations offer training- and employment-related services and programs for refugee and other newcomers. In some cases, they are referred to as “pre-employment” services, designed to help a newcomer prepare for a job search. In other cases, the services include employment-specific language and skills training, as well as job search assistance and placement. Such organizations in the GTA, which may include Arabic-speaking staff, include:

Services for women and youth

All Employment Services contracted with Employment Ontario, offer specific employment programs for women and for youth (generally defined as being between and including the ages of 15 and 29.)

See a separate article on this website, “Programs for Women,” for information on employment services and programs which may be of particular interest to newcomer women.

See also a separate article, Programs for youth. One service in the GTA, Youth Job Connection, positions itself as the “employment champion for youth”, but does not offer services tailored specifically for newcomer youth.

Helping a newcomer select an employment service

There are many factors to consider when selecting an employment service.

Some of the key elements to consider include:

  • Geographic location – Can the newcomer get there easily, independently?
  • Services and programs tailored to the needs of newcomers.
    • Are the training and other programs relevant to the newcomer’s employment plan?
    • Does the service offer personal and workshop communications in the newcomer’s own language? What level of English does the newcomer need to benefit most from the services offered?
    • Are services one-on-one, in groups, or self-directed?
  • What is the agency’s track record with newcomers and, especially, refugee newcomers? How many clients has it placed and in what types of jobs?
  • Does the agency offer ongoing support to the newcomer (and/or the employer) once the newcomer is placed in a job?
  • How interested is the employment service in collaborating with private sponsors of refugees or others helping newcomers?

Keep in mind that while the standards for every Employment Ontario program are prescribed in great detail for all Employment Services to follow, the methodology and quality vary from one service provider to another. Some Employment Services, for example, assign the roles of counsellor and development officer to different individuals, while others combine the two.

In approaching the search for an employment service, one might start with a web-based geographic search using the website, FindHelp.ca. Those results can then be narrowed down by type of program or service and language and then visiting one or more employment services to find a good fit. By visiting the Programs and Events section of this website, one can also view the offerings of employment services by location, work sector, and program type. To find all mentions about a particular organization on this website, use the search field in the menu bar at the top of this page, but for best results, enter as little of the name as required to identify the organization (such as “ACCES”, rather than “ACCES Employment”.) At the end of each program description on this site, there is also a tag to click on that displays all other programs of the same organization.

If an Employment Service engages a client who is not from the geographic catchment area of that particular office, the Employment Service must be able to demonstrate to Employment Ontario that the client sought out its organization for a particular, valid reason. Normally therefore, if from afar, prospective clients are referred back to services in their own areas.

A newcomer will often hear through word-of-mouth that a particular employment service offers good results and will therefore want to sign up with that service. Those helping newcomers may wish to ensure that some other good options are also considered, especially if the service provider’s office is not located nearby.

A major issue for Employment Services involves managing the expectations of its clients. Thus, to the extent that a private sponsor can help explain to a refugee newcomer what an Employment Service does (and does not do,) how the process works, what the responsibilities of the newcomer are, and what timelines are reasonable, the better the relationship and chances for success will be.

Eligibility of refugee claimants in Ontario

Refugee Claimants, even though they have not yet been granted permanent resident status in Canada, are eligible for the following Employment Ontario programs:

      • Employment Service, including Ontario Employment Assistance Services – all service components
        • A range of resources, supports and service components.
      • Youth Job Connection
        • At least 60 hours paid training to prepare for the workplace;
        • A job for up to 6 months; and
        • Mentorship, job-coaching and help with the transition from school to work, or to ongoing employment once the program ends.
      • Canada-Ontario Job Grant
        • Financial support to employers who wish to purchase short-term training for existing and new employees.
      • Literacy & Basic Skills
        • Help for adults to develop and apply communication, numeracy, interpersonal and digital skills to achieve their goals and transition to employment, post-secondary, apprenticeship, secondary school, and increased independence.
      • Second Career
        • Financial support to find a new career for those who have been laid off and have not been working; or who have been laid off and are working a temporary job just to cover costs;
        • Up to $28,000 for costs including tuition; books; manuals, workbooks or other instructional costs; transportation;basic living allowance; and child care.
      • Ontario Job Creation Partnerships
        • Designed to provide work experience to the unemployed unemployed, working on projects that benefit the community or local economy.
        • Potential sponsors (employers) approach the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities when they have a concept or proposal for a project.
        • Eligible sponsors include businesses; non-profit organizations; and public health and educational institutions
      • Ontario Bridge Training Program
        • Bridge training programs are for newcomers who have international training and experience and provide a “bridge” to what is needed to work in Ontario.
        • Training and support to obtain a licence or certificate and find employment.

Refugee claimants may also be eligible for training programs funded by the federal government and private donations, as well as for those offered by local school boards.

Sponsor collaboration with an employment service – What to do and what not to do

Once a newcomer has selected an employment service, he or she may wish to have someone from a sponsor or support group accompany him or her to the initial meetings with the service. Having the opportunity to hear and participate in the discussion about process, timelines, and expectations will enable a sponsor to offer better help to both the service and the newcomer and to calm any nervousness or frustration on the part of the newcomer, along the way.

Once a newcomer has signed up with an employment service, the newcomer – not the sponsor – becomes the service’s client.

It may well be that the employment service is not used to collaborating with private sponsors or other support groups. Privately-Sponsored Refugees may represent only a small portion of its overall clientele. (Other clients may include Government-Assisted Refugees, non-refugee newcomers, and non-newcomers, none of whom are likely to have the support of sponsor groups.) If so inclined, sponsors should be ready to make a strong case as to how they can collaborate with the service.

Furthermore, the employment service’s relationship with the newcomer will also be governed by strict privacy protocols, which the service is bound to uphold. However, if it so chooses, there is no reason that the employment service cannot obtain the consent of the newcomer to share information with the sponsor. It would be up to the sponsor to convince both the employment service and the newcomer that such sharing would be beneficial.

The employment service will develop its own employment plan for the newcomer. If the sponsor or support group has already explored and documented elements of a plan, they can be shared with the employment service and can serve as a very good starting point for its work with the newcomer. This would be especially useful if the newcomer has limited English language proficiency.

Once the employment service has been selected and engaged, sponsors should avoid the tendency to remain over-involved or meddle. They should remain available as a resource as agreed, or to be called upon, by the employment service or the newcomer and as friendly support throughout the employment search.

The sponsor or support group can and should talk to the newcomer regularly about his or her experience and progress with the employment service. The group can also support the initiatives of the employment service by offering to help with steps such as:

  • Describing education, skills, and work experience
  • Producing supporting documents
  • Identifying likes, dislikes, and expectations
  • Explaining cultural differences
  • Practicing for interviews
  • Obtaining a driver’s licence
  • Learning and practicing sector-specific, English vocabulary

The sponsor or support group can also provide emotional support and “pep talks”, which can be very beneficial during this potentially stressful and challenging process.

Ideally, if the employment service has identified a potential employment sector for the newcomer and helped him or her prepare to seek employment in that sector, this could be shared with the sponsor group (subject to privacy compliance) to see what opportunities its members can find through their networks.

Here are some areas to think about, in order to collaborate successfully with an employment service:

  • ensure that both the employment service and the sponsor group are aligned and motivated to find the “best possible” job, rather than just any job.
  • if a particular sector has been identified as potential for the newcomer, both the sponsor group and the employment service can work to find employment in that sector or related sectors.
  • The employment service may suggest that the newcomer pursue opportunities in sectors other than those initially identified and discussed by the sponsor group with the newcomer. Hopefully, this will not lead to disagreement between the service and the sponsor group. The sponsors may not feel that the opportunity sufficiently meets the objectives they had established with the newcomer, or even those that had been initially established with the employment service. Of course, the closer to the newcomer’s arrival in Canada that any plan and objectives were established, the more likely they are to be subject to revision. Much may depend, for example, upon progress made in English language instruction, discussions with family and other newcomers, and feedback from job interviews.
  • If such disagreement occurs, bearing in mind any changed circumstances, the sponsors could remind the newcomer of his or her original employment plan and the rationale for the objectives that had been established. The sponsors might also suggest that the newcomer request a joint meeting between the newcomer, employment service and sponsor, to discuss the options. Beyond that, the final decision of whether or not to pursue any opportunity remains the newcomer’s.
  • A situation may arise where the sponsor feels that the employment service is not doing enough. Ideally, this could be addressed through a joint conversation with the newcomer and the employment service (if the service is amenable.) Failing that, it could be proposed to the newcomer to try a different employment service and potentially terminate the relationship with the first service.