Employment services for newcomer women in the GTA

For a general discussion of employment services available to both women and men, see  our post on Employment Services on this website

Many employment and settlement services have programs for women, but only a few have (or have recently had) specific programs for refugee newcomer women. Employment and settlement services in the GTA that do have programs for newcomer women (even if not specifically for refugees) may include:

ACCES Employment assists job seekers from diverse backgrounds, who are facing barriers to employment, to integrate into the Canadian job market. Its programs specifically for newcomer women focus on empowerment, entrepreneurship, and customer care.

COSTI Immigrant Services provides immigrant women who face barriers with Canadian labour market information, employment coaching, business English, pre-employment preparation, life skills training and online learning – communication in the work place. Its programs for women focus on life skills, career development and small business initiatives.

Depanneur runs a programs for newcomer women, but these are food-related only.

Indus Community Services provides culturally appropriate services to newcomers, families, women and seniors in Peel region.

Job Start, in April, 2019,  launched a program for newcomer refugee and immigrant women  to prepare for employment.

(Mes Amis used to run the Darzee program for refugee newcomer women, specifically, which was sewing-related, but this is currently not in operation.)

New Circles offers employment skills training, as well as  settlement support, to individuals living on a low-income (with a focus on residents of Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park, Victoria Village, Taylor-Massey, and Oakridge), as well as all Syrian and other government-assisted refugees across the city.

Newcomers’ Women Services, in central Toronto, focuses its employment help on female clients, although not exclusively to newcomers. Its clients may face other barriers to employment, such as from substance addiction, houselessness, or being LGBTQ, racialized, and/or a person coping with disability.

Rexdale Women’s Centre supports immigrant, refugee and newcomer women and their families to become fully participating members in Canadian society.

YWCA, in Toronto, offers employment assistance specifically for newcomer women, through its JUMP and other programs.

Various social service agencies in the GTA offer pre-employment services, such as resume and cover letter preparation, and help with job searches, applications, and interviews. The following may be of interest, as having a significant clientele among refugee women newcomers:

Many of the employment programs supported by the Government of Ontario, open to both men and women, are run by employment services and for those involving third parties, application may be required to be made through an employment service.

Women newcomer/immigrant to Canada

Programs for newcomer women

Visit the Programs & Events section of this website for upcoming employment- and training-related programs that are specifically tailored for newcomer women (refugee or non-refugee). Use the “Type” filter to select programs for “women”. We also recommend entering the word “women” in the search bar at the top of every page on our website, which will identify numerous other posts that touch on the employment of newcomer women.

Programs in the GTA

The following are examples of training programs which are offered in the GTA and are specifically designed for newcomer women, or even more specifically, for refugee newcomer women:

  • Customer care
  • Entrepreneurship and small business
  • Female empowerment
  • Food preparation
  • Hospitality
  • Sewing
  • Microsoft Office skills
  • Transitions to Success
  • Childcare
  • Retail certificate
  • Self-employment
  • Preparing for work
  • Employment Success

These other programs designed for all refugee newcomers (male and female), may be of particular interest to women who have more limited education and levels of English language proficiency:

  • Beautician
  • Home child care
  • Food handler
  • Hospitality

Of course, women newcomers should also consider the many other employment- and training-related programs available, which are offered to both men and women, and may be of interest.

In December, 2018, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced the launch of a three-year Visible Minority Newcomer Women Pilot program. The goal of the pilot program is to improve the employment and career advancement of visible minority newcomer women in Canada by addressing the barriers they may face – gender- and race-based discrimination, precarious or low income employment, lack of affordable childcare and weak social supports. The government called for expressions of interest for new, innovative programs and services to support visible minority women in accessing the labour market and to build capacity in smaller organizations that serve or are led by visible minority women. It seems reasonable to expect that some of these new programs will be launched before the end of 2019.

Programs in Vancouver

In Vancouver, Tayybeh, a food company and social enterprise for Syrian women chefs, offers both catering services and food truck menus.

Media stories about refugee women newcomer programs and successes

Headline Media Date Excerpt

Finding Common Ground
Sheridan May 6/19 A Syrian newcomer’s world changed in a myriad of ways when she relocated to Canada in 2017. The mother of three enrolled in an English Language Studies certificate program, before entering into the Social Service Worker (SSW) program. The two-year, community-focused diploma prepared her to help people work through diverse challenges and improve their quality of life.

Culture Kitchen offers newcomers to Thunder Bay ‘great and nice opportunity’ to learn, belong.
CBC 2-Apr-19 A unique cooking program, run by Roots to Harvest, is helping a group of women, most of whom fled Syria, adapt to their new life in Thunder Bay.

Love in The Mix: Syrian catering company helps refugee women find community in Vancouver
CBC 26-Mar-19 Mariam Herro and Maryam Hamdo work with Tayybeh, a Syrian food company that started three years ago.

These Syrian refugees are giving their careers a makeover
CBC 18-Mar-19 13 women in Ottawa completed the first rotation of the intro to esthetics program

‘I can do everything’: Employment program tries to empower newcomers
CBC 25-Feb-19 Hasta Subba spent years in a refugee camp in Nepal and didn’t want to spend the rest of her life cleaning hotel rooms in Fredericton.

catering: A celebration of Syrian cuisine
CTV 13-Feb-19 Elwan and Eva Brownstein talk about a catering business that helps refugee women from Syria find a path towards independence.

3 Canadian women who are reshaping the food world right now
Canadian Living 17-Jan-19 Our agricultural future is brighter thanks to these three food titans.

La persévérance d’une réfugiée syrienne à Trois-Rivières
Radio-Canada 09-Jan-19 Berivan Ahmad, une réfugiée de la Syrie, est arrivée à Trois-Rivières à l’hiver 2016 sans connaître la culture ni la langue. Trois ans plus tard, à force de travail et de persévérance, la femme de 28 ans s’est trouvé un emploi qui lui plaît et où elle est appréciée.

At 21, this aerospace engineering student, former refugee has created her first invention
Globe & Mail 03-Jan-19 Three years ago, Shoushi Bakarian was sitting in Lebanon, part of a family of four Syrian refugees facing an uncertain future with hopes of making a new start in Canada

Syrian refugee finds purpose at business school – and in life
Globe & Mail 27-Dec-18 When the Ryerson student lost her spirit studying profits and losses, advice from a professor steered her toward social entrepreneurship.

Refugee women escape conflict to start over as caterers in Montreal
CBC News 09-Dec-18 Palestinian mother of four Hend Elhouseny says she’s starting over in Canada “from zero,” or even in the negative, but the community is helping bolster her dreams of creating a new life and helping other women do the same.

des femmes syriennes cuisinent pour mieux s’intégrer
Ici Quebec 13-Nov-18 Syrian refugees from Quebec have been involved in a community kitchen in the Sainte-Foy area for just over two years. For those women who did not know French when they arrived in Canada, the initiative is a way to build relationships and foster their integration.

Syrian refugee women play to their strengths with great communal food
Globe & Mail 02-Nov-18 Tayybeh, a food company run by Syrian refugee women in Vancouver, has branched out from cooking classes into catering and a food truck.


Further reading on employment challenges faced by newcomer women