One of the key factors in the successful settlement and adaptation of foreign-trained newcomers to Canada is their access to employment in Ontario, ideally in the occupation for which they have been trained and have had experience. Based on this principle, in 1998 Citizenship and Immigration Canada - Ontario Region Settlement Directorate (CIC) and the Access to Professions and Trades Unit (APT) of the then Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, collaborated to sponsor and facilitate the development of Steps to Employment Workshop Manuals. Their vision was to integrate orientation for newcomers to specific sectors with basic English language training.
From May 1998 to January 1999, LCRT Consulting worked in consultation with CIC, APT, Human Resource Development Canada (HRDC), and with sector-specific advisors, to produce and pilot test the first Steps to Employment workshop manuals. The materials were based on the LINC Curriculum Guidelines and addressed three different occupational groupings: computers, construction and home health care.
Participants in the first Steps to Employment project recommended that workshops for other occupations should be added to the series. Pilot test participants found that Steps provided the information that they needed to get started in their job search process. Employers and regulatory bodies expressed that newcomers were often misinformed about the sectors, and that the Steps to Employment workshops provided some essential background information.
In April 2000, the Ontario Administration of Settlement and Integration Services (OASIS), a department of CIC, contracted LCRT Consulting to develop three additional Steps workshop manuals which were pilot tested during summer 2000, and launched at the TESL Ontario Conference in November 2000. In keeping with the original vision for the project, a major component of the workshop development process was consultations with various stakeholders and sector experts. The occupational groupings selected by OASIS for this stage were: financial clerks, call centres, and entrepreneurs.
In the fall of 2000, CIC-OASIS and LCRT Consulting agreed on a list of occupational groupings that address the needs of newcomers to Ontario. Steps III adheres to the consultative process undertaken to develop the two earlier Steps workshops, incorporates focus group sessions with newcomers in the research stage of the work, and incorporates reviews by trainers and sector advisors. This third phase added twelve occupational groups to the series.
Implementation of Steps to Employment
The Steps to Employment series addresses the employment and language needs of the immigrant community in Ontario and provides a framework for instruction to use in delivering sector-specific language training. The series, which is available through the Internet, can be implemented throughout Ontario. The manuals are ready-to-use and user friendly. LINC programs can use Steps to Employment as part of their employment units or as special two-week sector-specific workshops. Other organizations can use the series as employment orientation sessions offered to foreign-trained workers in one of the occupational groupings addressed by the series, as self-study workbooks, for one-on-one tutoring, or as a pre-job-search workshop.
Steps to Employment materials were developed specifically for newcomers with training and or experience in particular sectors, and with language skills at Canadian Language Benchmarks 4,5 (reading, writing) and 6 (listening. speaking). With some adjustments, the materials are portable into other programs such as a long-term training course or an introductory course for youth with higher English language ability.
It is essential for immigrants to gain occupation-specific information and to learn terminology specific to their employment needs as soon as possible after their arrival in Ontario. Program coordinators, instructors, counselors, employers and others can help newcomers access this information about their sectors in Ontario by using the Steps to Employment manuals within their programs.