No More Money For Immigrant Job Program

No more money for immigrant job program

By Karena Walter
The Welland Tribune (Canada), March 12, 2010

An employment program in St. Catharines that helps fast-track skilled newcomers into professional jobs has not received government funding to continue.

'It's devastating to the group that we're serving,' said Stan Drobnich, the executive director of the Employment Help Centre, which has run the program for two years.

'I don't understand this. Niagara is a major entry point for new Canadians.'

The Queenston Street centre received $380,000 from Ontario's Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration in 2008 to run an immigrant employment bridging program.

The bridge program provided language assessments, mentors in professional fields and helped newcomers obtain professional licences.

Drobnich said the program not only met all of its targets and outcomes, it exceeded them.

More than 25 people found jobs directly in their professions, another 20 found jobs in related professions and 70 are in various stages working towards their credentials.

The funding expires March 31 and the centre found out this week the ministry will not be supporting a proposal submitted in September for nding.

Immigrants with skills and expertise are needed, Drobnich said.

He said the program helped retain people in Niagara rather than see them move to other urban centres.

'Being that this area has the second highest unemployment rate in Ontario, why would they take another tool that addresses both employer needs and provides individuals with tools to gain employment, why would they take that tool away?'

The program is different from others, he said, because it is geared specifically towards professional sectors.

It works closely with the Niagara Folk Arts Council and has a tremendous partnership with regulatory bodies, he said.

A ministry spokesperson said the ministry receives a large number of proposals every year and they are all evaluated by a committee based on criteria through a fair and transparent process.

Organizations that did not meet all the conditions have an opportunity to submit a request for feedback regarding the decision, Michel Payen-Dumont said in an e-mail.

'We will be more than happy to provide feedback to the Employment Help Centre and we invite them to contact the ministry.'

Payen-Dumont said removing the barriers for newcomers so they can work in their field of expertise is a priority for the government. 'Our bridge training programs are making a difference — they are changing the system, they are helping newcomers get work in their field and they are helping them get licensed in their field.'