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Efrain Rodriguez, Entrepreneur

Written by Sharon Aschaiek

Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT) courses are free workplace communication training courses for immigrants. They are offered at many Ontario colleges 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.

The class exercises were very useful for practising our communication skills and receiving feedback.
Efrain Rodriguez


When Efrain Rodriguez moved from El Salvador to Canada in 2013, he expected he’d have to take on survivor jobs to help support his family. But the graphic designer/sales coordinator quickly discovered a better pathway to resume his career.

A course for newcomers called Workplace Communications Skills for Entrepreneurs and Sales & Marketing focused on key language skills needed to navigate a business work environment. Part of several free learning options for immigrants called Occupation-specific Language Training (see sidebar), the course explains business workplaces in Ontario, and teaches the communication and networking skills key to career building. Rodriguez saw the course as a stepping stone to finding a graphic design-related job in business.

The Hamilton resident enrolled in the course at nearby Mohawk College, and learned how to interact effectively with customers, colleagues, employees and suppliers. The training addressed communicating effectively on the phone, in person, by email and in written reports. Through role-playing scenarios focused on job interviewing and making small talk, and by delivering class presentations on different topics, Rodriguez was able to practise the skills he learned.

“The class exercises were very useful for practising our communication skills and receiving feedback,” Rodriguez says. “I also learned about the process to start a business, and business support organizations in our community.”

An unexpected benefit for Rodriguez was connecting with his classmates — other internationally trained professionals from countries such as Brazil, Colombia and the Philippines.

“It was very interesting to meet with other professionals with similar backgrounds,” he says. “It is going to be helpful in the future, too, as we can support each other in our career development.”

After completing the course, Rodriguez used his OSLT training to improve his resumé so that it clearly reflected his business experience and know-how. A few days later, he was contacted by a recruiter from an apparel company looking for someone to assist with customized design. In their initial phone conversation, he was able to use his new communication skills to make a good impression.

“I was already aware of what to answer, and delivered my elevator pitch — a technique we learned in class — on my professional background,” he says.

The recruiter then invited Rodriguez for an in-person interview.

“Since I had just finished the OSLT program, I had all the practice and information fresh in my mind to answer the interview questions,” he says. “A couple of days later, I got the job!”

As a pre-production associate, Rodriguez manages digital software files used to create customized designs for different clothing items. His longer-term goal is to start his own business, but in the meantime, he’s enjoying the opportunity to put his professional expertise to use.

In summing up the OSLT course he took, Rodriguez says, “The OSLT course is an extra effort, but if you put into practice what you learn, you can be successful at finding employment.”

If you’re an internationally educated or experienced professional, learn how OSLT can help you build your workplace communication skills and cultural knowledge:

OSLT is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and coordinated by Colleges Ontario.

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