Written by Sharon Aschaiek
Workplace communication training proves clear path for immigrant
Many immigrants have a specific goal: to pursue a fresh start in a new country.
What is often less clear, though, is the pathway to successfully integrating into a new and culturally different labour force.
OSLT gave me exactly the kind of skills I needed to say, now I’m ready to go to the labour market.
But for newcomers to Ontario, the way forward is made easier by Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT). A collection of courses geared to internationally experienced professionals, they teach the workplace communication skills and cultural knowledge needed to successfully navigate a wide range of jobs and sectors.
Patricia Matos understands well the benefits of OSLT. Born in Brazil, she settled in Kitchener with her husband and their six-year-old son in 2015. She arrived with more than a decade of experience as a process analyst and administrator for an insurance company. In January 2019, she began focusing on rebuilding her career, and took part in the Conestoga OSLT course Workplace Communication Skills for Professional Managers.
In the course, Matos discovered techniques for communicating effectively in business and technology workplaces. Together with a small group of other internationally trained professionals, she learned the essentials of interacting effectively with staff, colleagues and managers.
The learning was facilitated by practical exercises, such as role-playing job interviews and delivering class presentations. Instruction also focused on writing emails, preparing reports, participating in meetings and communicating by phone. It even addressed the nuances of making small talk with co-workers.
“The course was very good—I learned how communication takes place in workplaces here,” Matos says. “The teacher helped me with my job search and taught me how to respond to specific types of questions in interviews.”
A side benefit of the course was getting the opportunity to expand her professional network to include her classmates—other business or technology professionals from countries such as Albania, China, Colombia, Iraq, Jordan and South Korea. They connected with each other on LinkedIn and share information on job fairs and employment opportunities.
“I felt really comfortable with the other participants, because we understood each other. I learned a lot from them,” Matos says.
Matos completed the course in March, and spent the next several months taking more ESL classes to further improve her English. When her job search began in the fall, she was soon steered back to Conestoga College: in October, she was hired as a clerk in its Applied Research department.
“OSLT gave me exactly the kind of skills I needed to say, now I’m ready to go to the labour market,” she says. “I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to take this course, and I encourage other immigrants to take it because it’s very useful.”
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.