Program helps immigrant youth find jobs, and friends

July 25, 2016

By Kathy Parson, CBC News |

Nasek Shaheed came to Canada from Bangladesh at the end of February completely alone. He had an MBA that was not recognized in his new country and no professional connections.

Fast forward four months, and Shaheed, 27, has a job, a career path and even a few friends after graduating last week from the Youth Employment Program run by the immigrant services group SUCCESS.

Shaheed’s parents are Bangladeshi, but he grew up in English-speaking Nigeria. He struggled with the language in Bangladesh and never really felt he fit in, he explained. So he successfully applied to come to Canada as a skilled worker.

“They’re helping us to start our careers, start our lives,” he said of the Canadian government, just before the graduation ceremony at the south Burnaby office of SUCCESS. “I thought I’d have to do it by myself, all alone.”

The program, which is open to unemployed or underemployed youth aged 15-30 who are legally able to work in Canada, consists of two weeks in a classroom learning skills such as resume writing, how to behave in a job interview and customer service tips, as well as familiarization with the Canadian work environment. Participants can also pick up credentials such as First Aid or Foodsafe. They are then matched with employers for a 10-week work placement. This is key for newly arrived immigrants such as Shaheed, who lack all-important Canadian work experience.

Shaheed was placed in the billings department of Internet Lightspeed, an Internet service provider. After his 10-week placement was up, they offered him a permanent position, which he starts this week. He plans to start prerequisite courses toward a Certified Professional Accounting designation in the fall.

Esther Chang, 30, was also hired by the firm where she did her work placement. Chang, a Canadian citizen who recently returned to Vancouver on her own after moving to Taiwan as a child, works in graphic design. The program was useful professionally, she said, but also personally.

“I made a lot of friends, they’re all younger than me and they’re all pretty energetic. So it’s a lot of fun to be with them and to have that kind of positive energy around you,” she said, as the 12 other people graduating in the ceremony laughed loudly at a slide show of photos from their time in the program.

The youth employment program is not only for professionals. Another graduate was 17-year-old Nakhil Singh, who arrived in Vancouver from South Africa with his family three months ago.

“I wanted to become more independent … earn my own money and learn about the business world and get a survival job, basically,” said Singh, who will start Grade 11 in the fall. “So I came looking for that, and I got exactly that.”

Singh was placed at a London Drugs store just down the road from the SUCCESS classroom. He, too, was hired after his 10-week work placement, during which he stocked the store. He starts training this week for additional duties such as cashier and photo/electronics associate.

“I’ve made so many friends there. Everybody’s happy to have me, I’m happy to be there … we love to joke around, which just makes going to work so much better.”

Singh will continue to work part time when school starts and hopes he can work there indefinitely, even if he finds a job in his chosen field, which is music.

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