Written by Sharon Aschaiek

Workplace communication course gives newcomer an edge

Finding a job in a new country is about much more than having the right knowledge and skills.

It’s just as important to understand workplace language and cultural norms, so that you can build meaningful and productive work relationships.

It’s a process that Julia Rokhina experienced in a course she recently completed, Workplace Communication Skills for Professional Managers. Rokhina emigrated to Canada from Russia in the spring of 2019 with her husband and two young children, and they settled in a town north of Toronto. In the course, the media professional, who wanted to continue working in the sector, learned how to decode the subtle cultural aspects of interacting with others in a work environment in Ontario.

“Here, the power distance between managers and employees is smaller—everyone’s opinion counts,” says Rokhina, who has a master’s degree in journalism, and worked for eight years as an associate producer at a state-owned television and radio broadcasting company.

Julia Rokhina

Julia Rokhina

I would definitely recommend the OSLT course to others who are new to Canada. We come from different cultures, and sometimes you need guidance to understand the nuances

It’s one of many useful insights Rokhina gained in the free course, which helps internationally trained professionals understand how managers communicate in business and technology workplaces in the province. This course is one of several workplace language training options for immigrants offered by Occupation-specific Language Training.

Rokhina took the course at Georgian College, taking classes on Tuesday evenings for six months, and completing written assignments in class and online. She learned about the communication competencies managers need to interact effectively with those they supervise, their colleagues and upper-level managers. She and her classmates practised workplace dialogues, and role-played being in meetings or having conversations with co-workers.

The course also introduces the landscape of employment services in Ontario, and creates opportunities to connect with local employers. Participants learn about the importance of networking as a way to find out about job opportunities and connect with organizations in their professional domain. The class itself provides a perfect opportunity to start building a professional network in Canada—Rokhina connected with classmates from countries such as China, Colombia, Guadeloupe and the Ukraine.

“Networking is uncommon in my home country,” she says. “In the course, I understood that to get a meaningful job, you need to network so that people can help you connect with contacts in your field.”

When she first arrived in Canada, Rokhina wasn’t optimistic about her job prospects: “I thought only survival jobs would be available to me.” But with her OSLT training, she can now pursue a broader range of employment opportunities, and ones that match her education and skill set. Rokhina has since completed two professional bridging programs for newcomers, one focused on intercultural communication and soft skills training, the other providing a pathway to employment in media and communications. She is now looking for work as a social media manager.

“I would definitely recommend the OSLT course to others who are new to Canada,” she says. “We come from different cultures, and sometimes you need guidance to understand the nuances to avoid feeling awkward and ensure people understand you.”

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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