Gladys Ortiz immigrated to Canada from Columbia in 2002. While living in Columbia, she received a Masters degree in Community Development and worked for her municipal government as a Social Dietician and Community Nutritionist for ten years. She also instructed part time at a local university.
When she moved to Canada she had intermediate English skills. She started looking for work but found it very difficult because she had no Canadian work experience and potential employers often thought she was over-qualified. “It was nearly impossible, I started to leave my education off of my resume.” Frustrated that she was only able to find work in shipping and receiving, Gladys continued to look for jobs more related to her skills.
Early in 2010, Gladys heard about a program for foreign-trained professionals at Douglas College called the Tri-Cities Intercultural Workplace Project. After contacting Douglas College for more information about the program, Gladys was sure she had found a resource that could help her overcome the barriers that had prevented her from finding satisfying work in her field.
She began the course in February 2010 and, since it was government funded, there was no cost to her. In addition, she received $400 a month to cover the cost of books, gas, transit etc.
Three aspects of the program were most helpful to Gladys:
English for foreign-trained professional: In this course students improve their verbal and written English. They also update their resumes, learn interview skills, and discuss job application strategies. They learn about the services and institutions available to support them in the Tri-Cities area.
- Introduction to community: In this course students learn about Canadian culture. Gladys said this was especially valuable because it has given her confidence to approach and communicate with business professionals because she understands Canadian culture better. Some of the topics covered in this course were economics, diversity, justice, how to approach difficult social issues (first nations, homelessness etc.), and exploring opportunities in a new culture.
- 100-hour practicum in the local community: Students were placed in a job in their desired field and assigned a mentor. Gladys said this was a fabulous experience because it allowed her to start building a network with professionals working in her area of interest.
Gladys completed the program in August 2010. Although she hasn’t found a job yet, her updated resume is getting her more interviews and her level of confidence in interviews has increased. The staff at Tri-Cities Intercultural Workplace Project continue to be available to support Gladys.
Gladys said that she feels confident, hopeful, and excited about her future. Her job search experience since completing the Intercultural Workplace program is like “being in a completely different universe!”