Community connections help young woman on her path

Mansher Sidhu came from India with her family when she was 12. Now at 18 and with an interest in baking, she’s considering her future career path.

Like many youth, Mansher Sidhu faced the uncertainty of not knowing what to do “when they grow up.” But she’s meeting the challenge head on by exploring a career in the skilled trades.

Mansher was born in India and moved to Surrey with her family when she was 12. 

“It was a new environment for me and my family—having no social connections and starting from the bottom was tricky,” she recalls. “But we managed. Together, we were able to pull through and settle in nicely.”

But since graduating high school last year, Mansher had been at a standstill. 

“I had many thoughts about what I could do or where I should go, but I had dropped or was uncertain about most of my job choices,” she says. “For a year, I was stuck researching, learning, or trying to find a job for experience. I was confused about whether I should make money a priority for a stable life or interest for satisfaction, whether I should go into career in demand or for the ones I have the skills for. In the end, I made my decision to go with interest, and soon, I came across the trades program.” 

Mansher is one of 10 participants in a trades sampler program for immigrant women offered by Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS), in partnership with Industry Training Authority (ITA), and Vancouver Community College (VCC). The sampler offers 12 weeks of hands-on exploratory training in hair design, culinary, and baking. 

“I find baking to be very appealing. It’s like science, but not in a boring science way—it’s cool,” she laughs. 

The program started in early March but moved to online training for the remainder because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite it being online, I was still able to understand and enjoy the course,” says Mansher. “The instructors explained well how the industry works, what is expected, and their experience being part of it. Also, I appreciate that we are given reading material and videos to get a better hang of the trade as well as recipes from the culinary trade to practice.”

Mansher has found that she enjoys the culinary trade the most so far, but only because she had just started the baking component at the time this article was written. 

“Baking, dare I say, is my preferred trade, but I have come to appreciate culinary quite a lot,” says Mansher. “It is quite similar to baking but not entirely. You still have the aspect of preparing and presenting but cover a lot broader aspects and methods, along with types such as breakfast, soups, poultry, etc.”

While she hasn’t decided for sure that she’ll pursue the trades as a career, Mansher has narrowed down her options, and the trades is in the running. In the meantime, she’s keen to explore and encourages others who aren’t sure of their career path to do the same.

“I really want to educate myself more, find out more about myself, and find a career that suites me,” says Mansher. “Arriving in Canada for the first time can be tricky and intimidating, but there are many organizations that assist newcomers to settle in and even provide programs and career advice. You can always find help from somewhere with all the resources and companies that are willing to help immigrants settle in. You can find quite a lot from researching, but I advise to build networks. You can get help from community services, but with connections and getting a bit involved in the community, you can earn so much and find a few opportunities. Starting like this can be hard, and I am only saying this from a student’s perspective, but I do know connections matter.” 

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