The overall objective of the SOSLIP activities is to enhance collaboration, coordination and strategic planning at the community level. In support of this goal, SOSLIP hosted WELCOME 2016, a Welcoming Communities Summit held at Okanagan College (Penticton Campus) on June 17th and 18th 2016.
WELCOME 2016 provided an opportunity to extend our reach into the community with the support of 13 presenters, all leaders in their fields, we offered 8 breakout sessions covering a range of topics. Dialogue ranged from employment strategies, to regional history, to future directions for immigration. The event incorporated keynote speaker, panel discussion, a Photovoice exhibition, and multi-cultural celebration. Approximately 130 were in attendance, including employers, politicians, service agencies, immigrants, educators and the general public.
SOSLIP hosted another key event at Okanagan College (Penticton Campus) on June 15th 2017. The CONNECT 2017 Forum was designed for immigrant job seekers and regional employers to meet, network and learn from each other. The Forum included a workshop to address diversity in today’s workplace, a resource and job fair, employer and immigrant panel discussions and networking.
Labour market studies show that the labour force in the South Okanagan Similkameen region is not growing fast enough to meet employers’ needs for workers and demonstrates that new immigrants are an important source of skilled and experienced workers. Employers and immigrants have indicated that they want to be part of the solution. CONNECT 2017 gave us the opportunity to bridge the conversation and learn more about newcomer barriers to employment.
CONNECT 2017 was held with the assistance of supporting partners including Community Futures, City of Penticton, YMCA Work BC, and Okanagan College. The event drew over 80 attendees including 17 employers who shared high praise for the event.
The theme of CONNECT 2018 Forum was Connecting Immigrants to a Career Path in Skilled Trades. The forum included presentations and panel discussions, direct contact between employers and immigrants, plus a bit of fun through hands-on activities!
We began with two introductory activities that included an introductory workshop and an industry trades tour. Themed around six key trades: Carpentry, Welding, Culinary, Horticulture, Welding, and Mechanics, we engaged ten employers, some from each of these principals, to provide small group presentations throughout the day.
We closed with a forum hosted at Okanagan College (Penticton Campus) on Saturday, June 9th 2018.
To introduce the various support services for entering a new career in trades, programs were described via a panel presentation, including a Q & A session. Partners included: YMCA WorkBC, Community Futures, Industry Training Authority (ITA), BC Construction Association, HortEducation.ca, Work Safe BC and Okanagan College. The attendees also had the opportunity to hear from fellow immigrants who have successfully built their career in trades.
What makes trades unique in Canada is the apprenticeship programs that combine hands-on learning with classroom learning. To engage the attendees in this concept we included hands-on activities during the Forum. We also used large poster boards to clearly communicate the school and work path, time commitments, costs and wage expectations.
Let’s Talk Jobs
The SOSLIP Working Group One has been working on the Condition of Change stated as “Attract and sustain newcomers that meet the workforce and business opportunities in the region”. Labour market research has been a prominent topic in the past few years, and of specific interest to our region. This group took on the action item of engaging employers in discussion about the employment conditions for the region and for newcomers. This resulted in a snapshot report that included abstracts from existing employment research, results from employer surveys and conversations, and newcomer surveys. The “Let’s Talk Jobs” report provides a high-level snapshot of employment opportunities in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region with a comparison to qualifications of recent immigrants to the area.
Familiarization Tours (FAM Tours) for Service Agencies
The SOSLIP Working Group Two working on “ensuring programs and networks are in place to support newcomers” adopted the concept of hosting Familiarization (FAM) Tours, a term quite popular in the tourism industry. FAM Tours provided an opportunity for front line staff members of community service partners to tour other agencies/organizations and familiarize them with available programs/services that support newcomer integration. This arrangement would lead to more effective referrals and ultimately, a more wrap-around approach to addressing newcomer needs.
Fast Track Mentoring
The SOSLIP Working Group Three was in charge of “increasing awareness of what newcomers contribute to the region and what the region can contribute to newcomers” and launched the Community Fast Track Mentoring Program. Two immigrant members from the group took an active role in identifying the resources for this peer-to-peer program. The goal was to match new immigrants with a mentor, a settled immigrant, from their country of origin, who helps familiarize the newcomer with their community in 30 days.
Toastmasters Club for Newcomers
In partnership with the Penticton Toastmaster’s Club, SOICS offered its Annual Toastmaster’s SpeechCraft Program. This is an eight week program that helps participants learn more about preparing and presenting speeches, including body movements and vocal variety. Experienced Toastmasters advise and guide participants throughout this learning process.
Participants learn about impromptu speaking and how to select the right words. They gain an understanding of how to properly introduce another speaker, and about the importance of speaking with enthusiasm and conviction. Participants also learn how to organize a speech for maximum effectiveness.
A certificate of completion is awarded at the end of the program.
Multi-Cultural Community Champions
We selected 14 immigrants from 10 countries to celebrate multiculturalism and show how diversity strengthens our community by highlighting the contributions of local residents. The selection was based on their contributions back to the wider community and for honouring and sharing their individual cultures. Dubbed as Multi-Cultural Community Champions, the immigrants were decorated because of their connection to a diverse cultural background, contribution back to our community through entrepreneurship, career, stewardship, mentorship or volunteerism, and were comfortable sharing their culture and story publicly.
The Multi-Cultural Community Champion stories will run monthly in the Penticton Western News, on Castanet and posted at various locations throughout the region.