There are numerous types of training programs available to refugee newcomers, some of which are specifically tailored for their circumstances and others of which are targeted to all newcomers, or to all Canadians. The different types of programs are described below.
Ontario bridge training programs for internationally-trained professionals
Bridge training programs are for all immigrant newcomers (and not just refugees) who already have a combination of international post-secondary education and work experience, as well as a high level of English proficiency.
As described on an Ontario government website, bridge training programs in Ontario are designed to offer “fast access to training and support” so that an internationally-trained, professional newcomer can get a licence or certificate and find employment. The newcomer must have a post-secondary certificate or degree from outside Canada and have international work experience in a profession or trade. The minimum CLB English language requirement varies between CLB 5 and CLB 8.
The programs are designed to “bridge” a newcomer’s international training, education and experience with what is needed to practice in Ontario. Programs are offered in the following fields:
- Employment Counselling
- Financial Services
- Health Care
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Project Management
- Sales and Marketing
- Supply Chain / Logistics
Training programs are run by not-for-profit organizations including:
- Universities and publicly-funded colleges;
- Occupational regulatory bodies;
- Community agencies; and
- Employer organizations.
Bridging programs offer:
- an assessment of education and skills;
- clinical or job placements to help get Canadian workplace experience;
- skills or academic training;
- licence or certification exam preparation;
- language training related to the profession or trade; and
- learning plans to see if more training is needed.
Visit the Programs & Events section and filter for “Bridging programs” under “type”.
Ontario Bridging Participant Assistance Program
The Ontario Bridging Participant Assistance Program (OBPAP) is a one-time bursary of up to $5,000 available to internationally trained professionals with financial need, to cover tuition, books and equipment costs. At the time of writing this description in September, 2018, the government website was still only showing deadlines and approved programs for the 2017-2018 academic year, ending in March, 2018. However, the program has been continued for the 2018-2019 academic year.)
To qualify for a bursary, the program must have been approved by the Ministry as being eligible. Not all programs described by providers as “bridging” are eligible for these bursaries. For the 2017-2018 academic year, schools in the GTA with eligible programs included:
- Collège Boréal ( for Gestion de projects up to $2,105.)
- George Brown College (for Enhanced Academic Pathway for Nurses Graduate Certificate Program up to $5,000.)
- Humber College (for Mobile Systems Integration Bridging Program for Internationally Trained IT Professionals, up to $3,840.47; NET Solutions for Internationally Trained IT Professionals up to $3,648.10; Engineering Software Skills Enhancement Project, up to $3,715.75; Leadership Connections, up to $565; Sales and Marketing Connections, up to $565; WIN Support Program, up to $450; Supply Chain Awareness Program for Employment (SCAPE), up to $170.)
- Ryerson University (for Middle Level Managers with Technical Background (MLM), up to $4,735; International Midwifery Pre-Registration Program (IMPP), up to $5,000; Workplace Communications in Canada (WCC) Program, up to $2,620; Engineering Connections: Project Management, up to $452; Information Technology Connections, up to $565; Green Economy, up to $300; Immigrant Professionals Leveraging Architectural Knowledge for New Opportunities (IPlan), up to $930.)
- Seneca College (for Bridging to Green Careers, up to $3,125; Financial Services Connections, up to $565; Job Skills Human Resources Bridging Program, up to $912.87; Professional Excellence in Financial Services Bridging Program, up to $625.)
- Sheridan College (for Supply Chain Connections, up to $565; HR Connections, up to $565.)
If a program has been declared eligible, the internationally trained professional must then apply to the financial aid office of the approved college or university. Applications for this financial assistance must be submitted before or during the bridge training or by March 31, whichever comes first.
The OBPAP website notes that “Priority is given to students with the greatest financial need, which is determined by your college or university’s student aid policies.”
Apprenticeships for skilled trades and NeCTAR program for newcomers
Trades in Ontario are regulated by the Ontario College of Trades. There are more than 150 designated trades. A searchable database is available to search and filter trades-related job profiles to see what is in demand, how much can be earned, and education requirements.
Under a formal apprenticeship, an individual takes classes and learns a trade by working under the direction of experienced workers, while getting paid for doing so. It takes between two and five years to complete an apprenticeship. Upon completion, a Certificate of Apprenticeship provides a step toward the next level of certification, leading to better paying jobs.”
The minimum education required for an apprenticeship in Ontario is Grade 12 or, in some cases, only Grade 10.
Employment services and settlement agencies have access to a website and program called “NeCTAR” (Newcomers Connecting to Trades Apprenticeship Resources). NeCTAR is intended to provide information and services to internationally-trained individuals seeking apprenticeship or employment in the skilled trades in Ontario.
NeCTAR offers a reference guide; materials to be provided to internationally-trained tradespeople; and a resource kit with modules that are available through the COSTI website, which include:
- an overview of the skilled trades and how the trades apprenticeship system works.
- Becoming a Certified Tradesperson in Ontario, describes certification and apprenticeship – the two pathways an individual with international training can take to practice a skilled trade.
- “Pathways to Practice” recommendations relating to four skilled trades (Hairstylist, Automotive Service Technician, Construction Maintenance Electrician and Industrial Millwright);
- The Role of Unions.
- Women in the Trades.
- Trade-Specific Self-Assessment Tools to assist internationally trained individuals assess how closely their training and experience match the training standards for their trade in Ontario.
- Trade-specific fact sheets for internationally trained individuals to quickly access information about apprenticeship or certification in their trade.
- Websites to link both internationally trained individuals and service providers to streamlined information and resources.
- Glossary of trade terminology.
The level of English proficiency required to enter an apprenticeship varies by program. At least CLB 5 may be required or recommended for speaking and listening and CLB 4 for reading and writing.
Visit the Programs & Events section and filter for “Apprenticeships” under “type”.
Shorter training programs for newcomers
A number of organizations provide newcomers with shorter skills training programs for various occupations, in some cases focused exclusively on refugee newcomers. The skills training may be combined with English instruction related to the specific type of employment.
Organizations in the GTA providing such programs include:
- ACCES Employment (with the Ontario Masonry Training Centre)
- Agincourt Community Services Association
- Hospitality Workers Training Centre
- Livelihood Project
- TNO (The Neighbourhood Organization)
- Refugee Career Jumpstart Project
- Ritz-Carlton Hotel
- Skills for Change
- Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
(The Darzee sewing program, formerly run by Mes Amis Canada, is currently not in operation.)
These programs cover fields such as:
- Customer service
- First Aid CPR/AED
- Food handling
- Food preparation
- Forklift Truck Operation
- Hazardous materials handling
- Hospitality service
- Home Child Care
- Retail cashier
- Security Guard Training
- Working at heights
The English proficiency requirement for these programs varies from CLB 2 to CLB 6.
Visit the Programs & Events section and filter for “Basic skills with English”, “Training with newcomer focus”, and “Entrepreneurship” under “type”.
Ontario Works Training Programs
Any individual enrolled in Ontario Works in Ontario, including refugee newcomers, may qualify to take an 8 to 26 week, skill training or employment program to learn new skills, explore careers, prepare for employment or learn about self-employment. Note, however, that to be eligible to qualify for Ontario Works, the individual must be in “financial need”. For refugee newcomers, this means no longer receiving financial assistance from the federal government, under the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), or from private sponsors.
Employment programs and skill training courses offered through Ontario Works fall within four categories. The training programs are delivered through a range of third party organizations.
- Employment Essentials programs help prepare for employment.
- Occupation-Specific Skill Training include job-specific skill training.
- Sector-Focused Career Development programs explore careers and offer essential skills development.
- Self-Employment Development programs develop knowledge to run your own business.
Ontario Works-sponsored training programs are not necessarily tailored to newcomers, whose first language is other than English.
Enhanced Language Training (ELT) with skills training
For those newcomers who have international training in a particular field and who already have a medium level of English proficiency, consideration can be given to entering an Enhanced Language Training (ELT) program, which includes skills training in a respective field. CLB 6 is most often required, but in some cases the minimum English requirement is as low as CLB 4. See a separate article on this website on Employment-related language training and visit our Programs & Events section and filter for “ELT” under “type”. (See results also under “Work-specific language training” and “OSLT”.)
Loans for newcomers to cover training expense
In addition to bursaries that may be available to pay the cost of eligible bridging programs, as described above, there are organizations that make loans of up to $10,000 on very favourable terms to cover licensing or training expenses for newcomer tradespeople, skilled workers and professionals. See our post, Loans for newcomers to cover licensing and training. Windmill Microlending and ACCESS Community Capital Fund are two non-profit organizations making such loans. Windmill Microlending has even more favourable loan provisions for refugee newcomers.