Immigrants are choosing to enter the trades because there are more and more opportunities, and because there is support available to help them train and find work. BC's need for skilled tradespeople is increasing rapidly, and the province is willing to invest in immigrants who can learn the skills needed by today's workplace.
The work is challenging, fulfilling and well-paid. In fact, tradespeople report high levels of satisfaction in their work, and on average, they earn double the wage of someone who works in retail.
Meet eight immigrants below who found training and support through the ITA Immigrants in Trades Training initiative. Each one has a different background and faced different challenges in pursuing a new career in the trades, but each one has found success and satisfaction as a tradesperson in British Columbia.
Abinder had spent the majority of his life working as an Electrician and Electrical Engineer in India. In 2010, he moved to British Columbia with his wife and two daughters to pursue better opportunities for his family.
However, Abinder was concerned that differences in his certification, his culture and his age would stop him from doing the type of skilled work in Canada he had done as an Electrical Engineer in India.
Determined to succeed in his field, Abinder connected with DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society and learned about the Immigrants in Trades Training program. After enrolling in the program, Abinder’s DIVERSEcity career counsellor encouraged him to challenge the Red Seal Electrician’s exam and become certified in Canada.
With the help of the ITA Immigrants in Trades Training initiative, Abinder received personalized support, mentorship and financial assistance to pay for the courses he needed in order to learn about the Canadian Electrical Code and challenge the Red Seal.
In early 2011, Abinder challenged the Red Seal exam and passed. As a Red Seal certified Electrician, he was able to secure a full-time position as a Construction Manager with BC Hydro at their Mica Generating Station.
Abinder believes that within five years, his career in Canada will be comparable to where it had been in India. His advice for anyone thinking of entering the skilled trades is to always continue honing your skills. "Once an employer recognizes your skills, they recognize your value. Be focused, make goals and work towards them. That’s the only way to succeed."
To download Abinder's printable profile sheet, click here. (3.8MB pdf)
Bikash, who was born in Nepal, had worked as a handyman, but dreamed of becoming an Electrician. Bikash balanced full-time studies at BCIT’s Electrical Foundation Program while trying to support his family on a part-time, minimum wage job. Once Bikash completed the Foundation Program, he needed to quickly find entry-level work in his field. Thanks in part to ITA’s Immigrants in Trades Training (ITT) initiative and ITA’s service provider, STEP, Bikash was successfully placed as an Electrical apprentice. His future pathway is clear: Bikash is now focused on completing his apprenticeship through to Red Seal Certification.
“It was tough for me because I was only earning minimum wage,” says Bikash of his beginnings. “The Immigrants in Trades Training (ITT) initiative has helped me get qualified and find a good job. I love what I do. I have a house and I can support my family.”
In Romania, Vasile worked in plumbing on commercial and residential construction projects. After moving to Canada and living in Montreal for a year, Vasile was not excelling in his career. Frustrated by his lack of success and watching his savings run low, Vasile moved to BC for a fresh start.
When he arrived in British Columbia, Vasile enrolled in an English Language Services for Adults (ESLA) course. In his search for an English language course, Vasile learned about the Immigrants in Trades Training program offered through DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society.
During his first meeting with a DIVERSEcity career counsellor, Vasile was deemed to be an excellent candidate for the Immigrants in Trades Training program. He immediately attended an employment skills workshop and received assistance developing his resume, cover letter and a comprehensive employment action plan.
"From day one, the program provided me with the support, information and training I needed to pursue a career in plumbing," says Vasile.
Vasile also worked closely with his DIVERSEcity career counselor to find a job in the plumbing industry. His determination soon paid off when he was hired as a Plumber’s assistant at Systems Mechanical in Surrey. Vasile also completed his Level 1 technical training through the Plumbing Apprenticeship Program at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).
Now a registered apprentice sponsored by Systems Mechanical, Vasile is currently completing his Level 2 Plumbing at BCIT and is well on his way to achieving his goal of becoming a Red Seal certified Plumber. He looks forward to one day becoming a Foreman himself and helping Systems Mechanical continue to succeed.
Vasile’s advice for other new Canadians interested in pursuing a career in the skilled trades is this: "Use a resource like Immigrants in Trades Training to find a program that is right for you. Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to give it your all."
To download Vasile's printable profile sheet, click here. (3.8MB pdf)
Living in South Korea, Jun worked full-time in interior design. After moving to British Columbia, he tried to find a steady career in the same field, but struggled to have his previous work experience recognized. Jun worked odd jobs as a general labourer and Carpenter's helper, but the lack of steady work prompted him to make a change.
Jun discovered the Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP), managed by the BC Construction Association (BCCA) and funded by the ITA Immigrants in Trades Training (IITT) initiative.
After attending a local information session, Jun worked with a STEP employment counsellor to develop a resume and refine his interview skills. Jun also assessed his skills and found he had a natural aptitude
STEP sent Jun's resume to Archway Construction, a mid-size construction firm in BC that employs more than 27 tradespeople and seven apprentices. Jun immediately secured an interview and trial shift. "Before discovering STEP, I didn't have the skills to pursue a career in carpentry," says Jun. "The program supported me through the entire process and put me on the right path to finding work."
Now a registered Carpenter apprentice, Jun is working full-time with Archway Construction and is finishing his Level 1 training through the Carpentry Apprentice Program at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). His goal is to become a Red Seal certified Carpenter.
Jun's advice for other immigrants interested in pursuing a career in the skilled trades is simple: "Work hard, and don't be afraid to ask for help: it is there if you need it.".
To download Jun's printable profile sheet, click here. (3.9MB pdf)
At age 53, Alfred is taking a new direction.When Alfred emigrated from Taiwan in 1992, he found a good career in the printing trade.
But when he turned 50, he realized that his eyesight was no longer sharp enough to allow
him to keep working at the same job. Since he had always enjoyed working with his hands, he decided to explore opportunities in the trades. He discovered that courses were expensive and looked into programs that could help him pay for the cost of training. At first he was discouraged, because many programs were intended for recent immigrants, or for people who received Employment Insurance, and Alfred didn’t meet these criteria.
Alfred got a lucky break when he contacted the BC Construction Association (BCCA). They told him about a new program that could help immigrants like him. This program, sponsored by the Industry Training Authority (ITA), was offered through the ITA Immigrants in Trades Training initiative and would help him to train for a career as a roofing tradesperson.
"The BCCA told me that the construction industry needed more people with these skills," Alfred explained. "I knew it would be easier to get a good job when I completed my training."
Through the ITA Immigrants in Trades Training initiative, the BCCA offered Alfred support to help him retrain, including paid tuition for a 10-day roofing course. As well as free training, Alfred received other benefits, such as bus tickets to cover travel costs, free lunch and coffee every day, basic tools and work-boots, and first aid training. "This was an incredible program," Alfred said. "They gave me so much. The tools are very expensive, but they paid for everything I needed."
Alfred was taught by a senior trainer from one of Vancouver’s top roofing companies. "He was fantastic – so knowledgeable!" Alfred exclaimed. When he completed his training, he was happy to learn that the same company planned to hire him as an apprentice. He will earn a good wage while he gets on-the-job experience, and at the end of four years, he will be a Red Seal certified tradesperson able to work anywhere in Canada.
"It’s a good fit," said Alfred. "I really like working outside and working with my hands. I will stay in the construction business, because it’s a long-term business, it’s a long-term job."
To download Alfred's printable profile sheet, click here. (273KB pdf)
Andriy is excited to be working in Canada, and on land.
Andriy, 34, was a certified marine electrician in his native Ukraine, spending over 11 years at sea. A visit to Canada prompted Andriy and his family to immigrate in 2010 but before this young father could find quality work, he knew he had to get his experience and training recognized by Canadian standards. Andriy found the Industry Training Authority and with the help of the Immigrants in Trades Training initiative, he found the support he needed to have his certification recognized within the year.
To download Andriy's printable profile sheet, click here. (273KB pdf)
Jatinder has found a new career in BC
Jatinder is ambitious, hardworking and university educated. He was a successful business-to- business salesperson in India, but with minimal English language skills and no business contacts, he found that his employment prospects were very different in British Columbia.
Here, he could only find low-paying jobs that didn’t lead to better opportunities. With no trades experience, Jatinder hadn’t considered pursuing a trades career, but a friend of his, also an immigrant to BC, had found work with a local electrical company. His friend told him that there were opportunities for immigrant workers like him, even if they didn’t have existing skills.
Jatinder decided to contact S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Employment Services, an immigrant support organization, and see whether they could help him to train for more stable, better-paid work in the trades. Through ITA Immigrants in Trades Training, an initiative sponsored by the Industry Training Authority, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. was able to co-ordinate English language classes and a four-week electrician pre-apprenticeship program at BCIT for him. "I wanted to improve my English and learn the skills that are needed here in Canada," said Jatinder. "They found the courses I needed and paid for my tuition and my books."
The initiative also helped him find employment when he finished his program. Having completed his first year of training, Jatinder is now working on a construction site earning a good wage while he continues his path to becoming a certified electrician. He looks forward to achieving his certification in the near future. "I never imagined I would learn a trade when I moved to BC, but I like this work very much. It’s a good feeling to know that my skills are in demand here."
With help from the ITA Immigrants in Trades Training initiative, Jatinder will complete a four-year apprenticeship, earning a good wage while he becomes an expert tradesperson and a certified electrician. But the rewards of his new career are not just financial: "I like working with my hands," Jatinder said. "I’m good at it and it feels good to know that I have skills that employers want. Everybody wants to know that they are valued and needed."
To download Jatinder's printable profile sheet, click here. (275KB pdf)