Finding work in a new country is not easy. Add a language barrier and possible difficulty transferring certifications or diplomas, and it can be downright overwhelming.

However, entrance into the job market is essential for new Canadians. The sooner a person is employed, the sooner they can begin to build a life and play an active role in their community.

I had the pleasure of working with a refugee Syrian family earlier this year, who, as soon as they had their home together began to ask about drivers license requirements and work options. As one parent had been an English teacher, they had a real leg up on filling out paperwork and making the connections socially to network and succeed.

It is much more difficult for those without English skills here in St. Johns.

The Coalition for Richer Diversity (CORD) held a workshop at the Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Councils (RIAC) temporary new office space yesterday, on accessing what is referred to as “the hidden job market,” — jobs available in the labour market that are not visible to most people.

This could be as simple as figuring out how to make links with employers who do not advertise openings on Kijiji, or as creative as identifying something not happening here and offering a new service, restaurant, or other type of business.

Dayo Ojo, CEO of Atom Ventures, expressed the importance of thinking outside the box. Coming from Nigeria, he knew it would be easy to feel that there was so much more available in this relatively wealthier nation, but instead chose to put a different lens on and think, “what is it that is common in my own country that I do not see here, which could be useful?”

Learning English is a process that takes different amounts of time in different cases. In order to set  people up with meaningful work in the shortest time possible, a recommendation that came out of today’s workshop was  creating links with employers in industries that require less interaction, in order to supply temporary or permanent jobs for newcomers while they are studying English.

Also, developing programs for people with ample prior experience in a field, that allows them to match their certifications to Canadian requirements, without costing them the money and time of taking introductory courses, would bring more skilled workers to our province in less time. Various social enterprise ideas were explored.

I don’t need to tell you the world is in crisis right now, and Canada has a huge role to play in preventing   humanitarian tragedy. This workshop helped me to get proactive and think about concrete actions I can take to help refugees and immigrants in my community  participate in building a peaceful future together.

“Inclusion is so 2000. Today we use the participatory approach” Jose Rivera of RIAC informed me. In simple terms, it’s not about “fitting in” to a status quo, but about everyone participating in building a world that works for us all.