Written by Sharon Aschaiek

Course helps internationally trained marketer build workplace language skills

Each year, tens of thousands of skilled immigrants from around the world settle in Ontario, and for many, Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT) is a gateway to restart their career.

These free work-focused communication courses help newcomers understand how their chosen occupation or sector operates in the province, and helps them develop the language skills to find jobs and succeed in the workplace (see sidebar).

Maja Peric

Maja Peric

As a newcomer, you feel a bit scared about your language abilities, but with OSLT, you see how other people are in the same situation, and you realize you can do it—nothing is impossible in the end.

In 2016, Maja Peric, from northeast Italy, was among the immigrants who chose to start a new life in Canada. She settled in a city north of Toronto to be with her Canadian partner. Peric was intent on resuming her career as a digital marketer. “I love marketing; I couldn’t see myself doing anything different,” says Peric, who had worked in the field for two years in Italy. Peric soon discovered an OSLT course offered by Seneca College’s Newnham campus in Toronto: Workplace Communication Skills for Entrepreneurship and Sales & Marketing. The course explains communication norms in business workplaces and how to interact effectively with customers, managers, colleagues, employees, suppliers and other key stakeholders.

The course covered the cultural nuances of communication in local business workplaces, including the type of jargon used. The small class allowed for plenty of opportunities to practise newly learned skills by roleplaying communication scenarios. Among the classwork was an assignment that required Peric and some classmates to create and deliver a slide presentation on developing a franchise for a popular restaurant.

“It was a really good opportunity to practise my communication skills, and on a topic that might interest all of us as business professionals,” she says.

Peric completed the course in January 2017, but she knew she still needed to improve her English writing abilities. She decided to pursue another OSLT business training option: Writing Professionally.

In this online course, the focus is on enhancing workplace writing skills by better understanding the purpose of each message and the intended audience. Participants also learn how to structure messages in a logical format, use an appropriate level of formality, and self-edit to identify and correct their common errors. The end goal is to produce single- and multiple-paragraph messages for functions such as making requests, sharing information and following up on previous messages.

“I learned how to get across my meaning more clearly, and to communicate more precisely what I am thinking,” she says.

An added benefit of both courses was the opportunity to connect and network with other internationally educated business professionals from countries such as China, Jordan and Russia.

Peric says the OSLT courses have made a lasting impact on how she interacts with others at work. She has applied what she has learned in her employment—first as a marketing coordinator at an accounting firm, and now, as a marketing analyst and social media coordinator at a professional membership association in Toronto.

“I have carried the lessons with me, and I still find them to be very useful on a daily basis at work,” she says. “As a newcomer, you feel a bit scared about your language abilities, but with OSLT, you see how other people are in the same situation, and you realize you can do it—nothing is impossible in the end.”

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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Faisal Alsafadi