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Multicultural association helps immigrants to enter workforce

For The Daily Gleaner

Aifang Pan says she was able to develop the workforce skills she needed to land a full-time job through a program offered by the Multicultural Association of Fredericton.
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A night to celebrate: Above, from left, are: Real Robichaud, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick; Chantal Poitras, operation assistant with TIANB; Catherine McPhee, education resource co-ordinator for TIANB; Aifang Pan, a new employee of TIANB; Sheila Atkinson, operations and programs manager for TIANB; and Bonnie Doughty, employment co-ordinator for the Multicultural Association of Fredericton. They attended the multicultural association's employer appreciation night recently. TIANB was recognized in the small and medium business category for its diverse hiring practices and unique training program.
Recently, Pan was one of 10 immigrants who graduated from the association's New Brunswick Employment Language Training class at the New Maryland Centre.
Pan and her husband moved to Fredericton eight years ago so her husband could take a job with the University of New Brunswick.
Recently, she said, she decided she wanted to enter the workforce.
"My kids were born here and for the past few years I've been at home with them," she said. "Now my kids are a bit bigger so I can come out and start to work."
The employment language training program focuses on providing immigrants with computer skills, employment readiness training - which includes practising networking and giving presentations - and language training.
After the 16-week-long program, participants enter into a work placement, which normally runs for at least a few months and can lead to full-time employment.
Pan said her work with the program has already paid off.
"It's a very nice program; I really appreciate it," she said. "I have learned a lot from my NBELT class. I've started to create my portfolio and I have improved my English a lot. Now I have a full-time position."
She said she's now working with the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, the same organization she was paired with for her work placement.
Bonnie Doughty, employment co-ordinator for the multicultural association, said the training program is a valuable tool for newcomers to Canada.
"The program addresses the barriers that our clients face when trying to enter the workforce," she said. "Those barriers include no references or work experience, a lack of understanding of Canadian culture, a lack of understanding of workforce expectations and, of course, language."
She said programs such as this are important as they play a role in attracting immigrants.
"I think when newcomers look to go anywhere in Canada, they want to know if there are services there for them, and in a smaller community they may not have them," she said. "In bigger areas there are lots of classes, but there are also lots of immigrants, so you might have to wait a long time to get in. I think having this class in Fredericton is very important."
Wednesday was also the Multicultural Association of Fredericton's third annual employer appreciation night, to recognize organizations and individuals that support diversity in the workplace.
Alex Scholten won the community support award, Caris won the large business award and the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick received the award for small and medium business.
Sheila Atkinson, operations and programs manager for the tourism industry association, said the organization provides a program that's tailored toward newcomers, called the ready-to-work program.
"It's comprehensive essential skills training for those entering the workforce, specifically in tourism," she said. "The program fits perfectly with the multicultural association's NBELT program and it seems the outcome is tremendous."
Real Robichaud, executive director of the association, said that with a little training, immigrants add a lot to New Brunswick's workforce.
"Programs like these help the tourism industry by helping us find the people we need," he said. "Not only do they bring skills from their own countries, but they also have excellent work ethics and bring a great cultural background."

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