Written by Sharon Aschaiek
Communications training provides newcomer with roadmap to achieving entrepreneurial success
Alaauldeen Ibrahim is a food manufacturing engineer who moved from the Middle East to London, Ontario in 2018. He says, “It was a long-held dream for me to live in Canada, a beautiful country in terms of nature, people and lifestyle.” Ibrahim planned to start his own food manufacturing business in Canada.
Ibrahim has 14 years of experience as a production manager at food companies in Saudi Arabia. He also has two related degrees: a bachelor’s degree in food science, technology & agriculture, and a master’s degree in business administration. To achieve his goal, he needed an understanding of the local business landscape and how to start his enterprise.
That’s where Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT) came in handy. These free courses teach internationally educated or experienced newcomers the communication skills and cultural knowledge needed for employment success in various sectors in Ontario (see sidebar).
OSLT was very helpful to me. It allowed me to understand the communication aspects of business workplaces, and the requirements to establish my own company here. It helped me gain more confidence in starting my own business.
In the fall of 2020, Ibrahim enrolled in the OSLT business course Workplace Communication Skills for Professional Managers. The training focused on interacting effectively with staff, colleagues and managers. He learned about the conventions for making business phone calls, writing emails and participating in meetings.
The course also focused on the cultural and social aspects of how people interact in business workplaces. Ibrahim gained insights in areas like making small talk with coworkers and the power dynamics between supervisors and workers.
“When I took this course, I understood that some of the ways I used to communicate outside of Canada wouldn’t work here,” Ibrahim says. “Everything starts from understanding the culture of the people. From that point, you can identify which are the better ways to communicate with others.”
To further build his knowledge, Ibrahim signed up last year for Workplace Communication Skills for Entrepreneurship and Sales & Marketing. Through this course he was also able to participate in an IRCC-funded pilot program with the aim of providing supports for newcomers interested in entrepreneurial activities. Ibrahim discovered the key steps to starting a new business in Ontario. These included conducting market research, identifying and understanding your target customer, creating a business plan, promoting your enterprise, and networking with local employers and business associations. These supports connected him with local business organizations such as Service London Business Hub, Innovation Works, the London Small Business Centre and Fanshawe College’s LEAP Junction (Entrepreneurial Services).
Through both OSLT courses, Ibrahim was able to build connections with his classmates—other internationally experienced businesspeople from countries such as China, Egypt, Korea and Turkey. Today, these individuals are part of his professional network on LinkedIn, where they share employment leads.
Recently, Ibrahim launched a food industry consultancy called ABANOS, where he helps food producers and manufacturers in Canada sell their products to global markets. He also advises them on operating efficiency, quality control and effective leadership. At the same time, he’s continuing to work toward his main entrepreneurial vision: establishing a small food plant that makes Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food products.
Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT) courses are free workplace communication training courses for immigrants. They are available full-time or part-time; in class 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 (IRCC) and coordinated by Colleges Ontario.