Foreign-trained Professionals Gather at Annual Conference

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fourth Annual Conference for Internationally-trained Professionals

By Dave Hall, The Windsor Star
Internationally trained professionals were urged Tuesday to look outside their comfort zones and embrace change while seeking new job opportunities across the region.
Rakesh Naidu, who arrived in Canada 11 years ago from India with a degree in chemical engineering and work experience with General Motors, told more than 400 participants in an ITP conference that many of the ITPs he knows have found work outside their core competencies.
"I had no experience in economic development, but now I love what I do and have a real passion for it," said Naidu, who is Director of Business Attraction for the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation.
"When I first arrived in Canada, I couldn't find anything in my field," he said. "I'd worked for GM and helped them launch new products in India, but when I arrived in Canada, it was a month before 9/11 and everything changed."
Naidu said a lot of companies, including GM, froze their hiring practices.
"I went through highs and lows, moments of despair, and wondered if we had made the right decision," said Naidu, whose wife Padmaja is now an internist in Windsor.
Eventually, he found work as a manual labourer with an auto salvage company in Toronto before moving on to ABC Plastics and then Magna International, ultimately landing a job with the WEEDC.
"I tell most of the ITPs I meet that it's not so much their qualifications that can be an issue, it's the so-called soft skills," said Naidu. "Language skills, business ethics and work culture knowledge are equally important."
Participants at the conference, funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and organized by the Windsor-Essex YMCA, were urged to join volunteer organizations to upgrade those skills and develop a network of contacts.
Amy Infantino, a teacher who moved from Sicily to Windsor a year ago to join her husband Michael, who is also a teacher, said she was attending the conference to seek out volunteering opportunities.
"I know I need to upgrade my language skills to become a teacher and that's why I'm here today," said Infantino. "I want to be a teacher but I'm open to almost anything.
"By volunteering, I also hope to make some contacts who can help me find a job in another field if necessary," said Infantino.
Participants were also able to meet with representatives from a number of area employers, social agencies, volunteer groups and government agencies during the day-long event.
Adam Vasey, director of Pathway to Potential, said his agency participated in the event to help understand what barriers are in place and what needs to be done to help ITPs attain accreditation and find work in their chosen fields.
"If we can better understand the issues, we can be better advocates for change so that ITPs can attain their full potential in this community," said Vasey. "Many of the people in this room are trained in sectors where we have shortages and we need to find ways to help them enter the workforce."
Saif Abdallah came to Windsor from Iraq two years ago with a degree in electrical engineering and is still looking for work in his field.
"I've worked at a convenience store and I've had one interview at a call centre and that's all," said Abdallah. "It's frustrating not to be able to find anything in what I'm trained to do, but I'm going to keep looking."
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