Written by Sharon Aschaiek

Building a career with free workplace language training for immigrants

Like many immigrants, Sam Paulmoni moved to Canada in search of more rewarding career opportunities. Born in India, Sam arrived in Ontario in May 2018 full of drive, eager to build on his 12 years of experience as an IT project manager, including nine with one of the world’s largest information technology companies.

Workplace Communication Skills for Technology Alumni Sam Paulmoni

Sam Paulmoni

The course taught me a lot about language skills in Canadian workplaces, and how to work with others. Building these soft skills helped me get back my confidence back.

But Paulmoni’s momentum started to ebb after a few months of unsuccessful job searching. He began wondering if he had what it took to make it in the local job market.

“I started applying for jobs right away, and did some interviews, but didn’t get hired,” says Paulmoni, who lives in Toronto. “Initially, I was very confident about my abilities, but the job-search journey became tougher and tougher.”

What turned things around for Paulmoni was when a friend recommended a course that helps newcomers to Ontario resume their careers. Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT) teaches the communication skills and cultural knowledge related to specific occupational areas (see below).

From September to November 2018, Paulmoni took part in Humber College’s part-time OSLT course Workplace Communication Skills for Technology. This practical course helps immigrants understand technology workplaces in the province, and learn how to interact effectively with colleagues, clients and supervisors.

One aspect of the course Paulmoni found especially useful was the instruction in job interviewing skills. He learned about the importance of building a relationship with an interviewer through small talk.

“Every time I had an interview, I would speak mainly about my technical knowledge. In the course, I learned about the importance of first establishing a connection with the person doing the interview,” he says. “I was never good at small talk, but in the course, we practised interview scenarios, focusing on making conversation and finding common ground.”

Other key skills Paulmoni gained through the course included communicating by email, delivering presentations and professional networking. Through practical assignments, role-playing exercises and plenty of in-class practice time, the lessons stuck.

An additional benefit of the course was that Paulmoni’s classmates—other IT professionals from India, Pakistan and different parts of Europe—became part of his professional network. Today, they continue to provide each other with encouragement and share job leads.

A couple of months after completing the course, Paulmoni was invited to interview for an IT project manager position at one of the top Canadian telecommunications companies. In the interview, he put more effort into building a relationship with the three interviewers: “It felt more like a chat than an interview,” he recalls.

Paulmoni’s effort paid off, and he joined the company in February. Working out of the company’s corporate head office in downtown Toronto, his job involves overseeing a team of 10 people who are upgrading the company’s customer service software.

“The course taught me a lot about language skills in Canadian workplaces, and how to work with others,” he says. “Building these soft skills helped me get back my confidence back.”

Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT) courses are free workplace communication training courses for immigrants. They are available full-time or part-time; classroom-based or online. These courses are offered at many Ontario colleges and cover a range of occupations in business, construction, health sciences, human services and technology. OSLT is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and coordinated by Colleges Ontario.

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Abiramy ThivakaranSoroush Mosavati, Workplace Communication Skills for Professional Managers Alumni