Written by Sharon Aschaiek

Newcomer’s fresh start supported by free workplace language training for immigrants

In fewer than two years, Naoual Oualieddine has transformed herself from a newcomer to Canada trying to navigate the labour market, to someone who now helps other recent newcomers for a living. The common thread that weaves through Oualieddine’s journey is Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT), an innovative language training initiative that helps newcomers succeed.

A new adventure

Driven by a desire to radically change her life, Oualieddine moved from Casablanca, Morocco to Ontario in the spring of 2019. A holder of a Master of Sciences and Techniques degree from the University of Burgundy in France, Oualieddine had worked for seven years at Morocco’s National Fisheries Office, most recently as a process improvement manager. Her goal was to build on that training and experience to become a project manager.

She ultimately settled in southwestern Ontario and in May enrolled in Leadership and Management, a bridging program at Collège Boréal’s Hamilton campus that prepares participants to earn the Project Management Professional certification. At the same time, she wanted to improve her English skills. From her program coordinator, she learned about OSLT, a series of free workplace communication skills courses for newcomers offered by the college. Geared to internationally educated or experienced professionals, these in-class and online courses cover the communication skills and cultural norms of workplaces in six sectors in Ontario (see sidebar for details).

Naoual Oualieddine

Naoual Oualieddine

I thought that as a former student, I could be useful in this role and help make sure that participants get the most out of their experience. Managing OSLT is a good way to pay it forward. Helping newcomers to improve their language and cultural skills will make their integration easier and contribute to their success.

Building workplace language skills

Over the next few months, Oualieddine participated in a series of online OSLT courses each 40 hours and delivered online through Boréal’s Hamilton campus. The Communicating in the Business Sector course she took explores workplace culture in business organizations, and the essential skills of communicating effectively: gathering and sharing information with colleagues, making presentations, and interacting by phone and email. Managing Workplace Interactions, meanwhile, focuses on competencies such as working in a team, making and responding to requests, participating in meetings and offering suggestions. The course also tackles trickier tasks such as negotiating, problem-solving with others, and dealing with challenging interactions.

In Writing Professionally, she learned about being strategic in written workplace communication, and the importance of considering the audience and having a clear purpose. When it came to email, she learned how to use a logical structure in messages, and effective ways to make requests, exchange information, make complaints or follow up on matters.

“This course was helpful because it was very practical. I love how the curriculum was structured—it went right to the point,” Oualieddine says. “We gained skills that we could use right away in a workplace.”

Altogether, these OSLT courses strengthened Oualieddine’s workplace communication skills, while also reinforcing the cultural knowledge she had gained through her bridging program. But another important benefit of the courses, she says, was how they enabled her to further build her professional network.

“When I first moved here, I heard about the importance of having a network, and I found the courses a great opportunity to expand my network,” she says. “I’ve stayed in touch with some classmates, and we continue this journey together. We connected on LinkedIn, we share leads with each other. They give me advice, I give them advice.”

Helping other newcomers

Recently, Oualieddine returned to Collège Boréal’s Hamilton’s campus to work as the manager of Immigrant Programs and Services, where her responsibilities include administering the OSLT program.

“I thought that as a former student, I could be useful in this role and help make sure that participants get the most out of their experience,” she says. “Managing OSLT is a good way to pay it forward. Helping newcomers to improve their language and cultural skills will make their integration easier and contribute to their success.”

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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Julia Rokhina