BC program continues to help skilled immigrants find jobs

The British Columbia and federal governments are investing $12 million for the continued delivery of the BC Skills Connect program, which has successfully helped more than 5,500 immigrants connect with jobs that use their foreign qualifications and work experience.

“The skills, knowledge and experience of new immigrants are vital to sustain British Columbia’s strong economic performance and long-term growth,” says Moira Stilwell, minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development. “The success of the BC’s Skills Connect program is gratifying as it is helping immigrants find employment in their chosen career and to participate more fully in their communities.”

Established in July 2006 as a three-year pilot, the Skills Connect program has consistently exceeded its targets, helping 1,587 skilled immigrants connect with jobs in 2007-08, with 226 placed in the health sector and over 2,100 helped in 2008-09, including 500 in the health sector.

“By 2011, 100 per cent of Canada’s labour force growth will come from immigration, so when immigrants succeed, we all succeed,” says Jason Kenney, minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism. “Programs like BC Skills Connect bring together governments, community groups, professional organizations and the private sector to ensure that newcomers are putting their skills to work sooner to help build Canada.”

Skills Connect assists skilled immigrants in connecting with employment in the construction, energy, health, tourism/hospitality, and transportation sectors. Owing to its success, the program has been broadened to cover all industry sectors and expand the eligibility criteria allowing more immigrants to connect with jobs that build on their pre-arrival qualifications. To date, more than 80 per cent of those completing the program have been successfully connected with employment in communities throughout B.C.

“Partnerships like this one will go a long way to help new immigrants fully participate in British Columbia’s workforce,” says Diane Finley, federal minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. “Through our Labour Market Agreement with B.C., and programs like Skills Connect, we are delivering on our commitment to help all workers get the skills and training they need to find and keep good jobs.”

Five agencies were awarded contracts effective Sept.1, 2009 to deliver Skills Connect services. They include: Association of Service Providers for Employability and Career Training, Back in Motion Rehab Inc., Douglas College, Training Innovations Inc. and Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

Clients in health professions continue to have specialized services at two of these organizations: Back in Motion Rehab Inc. and Douglas College.

The ministry’s total budget for Skills Connect is $12 million, with the province funding $4.8 million and the federal government funding the remaining $7.2 million.

The Agreement for Canada-B.C. Co-operation on Immigration will be transferring $120 million in the 2009-2010 fiscal year from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to the B.C. government, which is responsible for administering settlement services for new immigrants, including English as a Second Language training for adults and employment initiatives.

Under the Labour Market Agreement, the Government of Canada is providing the province approximately $66 million annually until 2013-14. Through a variety of programs, these funds will increase training for employed individuals who are low-skilled and require essential skills, or who require recognized credentials to reach their full potential in the current marketplace. They will also help increase access to training for unemployed individuals who are not currently Employment Insurance clients, including but not limited to those who are underrepresented in the labour market.

For more information on the BC Skills Connect program visit www.aved.gov.bc.ca/skillsconnect/.