WE Connect Job Fair: Opportunities for international students

By in News

On Oct. 5, 2016, the Saskatoon Open Door Society hosted its biannual WE Connect Job Fair, an event which works to provide job opportunities for immigrants and refugees, at Mount Royal Collegiate with over 1,500 attendees, including students.

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The gym at Mount Royal Collegiate was packed with employers and international students for the Open Door Society’s Job Fair.

SODS is a non-profit, governmentally funded organization that provides settlement, employment and training services to immigrants and refugees.   Umar Shahzad, employment counsellor at SODS for the past five years, shares that SODS is proud to provide a recruitment and networking event that displays an array of employers who provide opportunities for newcomers and increase diversity within their company.

Shahzad speaks about the importance of having such a job fair.

“What are your chances in getting called and having that face-to-face interaction? To have the boss say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to hiring you. In this case, this event, you can already consider yourself short-listed,” Shahzad said.

The International Student and Study Abroad Centre at the University of Saskatchewan alerted students of the event beforehand and held an information session to help international students build up experience and learn to showcase skills.

Shahzad explains that international students and newcomers face many challenges when looking for jobs in Canada.

“Canada is a new country for them — they don’t know anybody, they don’t know about the work ethic, they don’t know how to find a job here. One of the major challenges is language skills,” Shahzad said.

Like ISSAC, Open Door arranged to do pre-workshops with their clients before the event to ensure they were well equipped for speaking to employers.

“We do have different employment services programs going on right now … Some are focusing on customer service positions or administrative positions. Some are for those who have low level English language skills. We have a program for people with disabilities or who have never worked before in their life. We have special programs for high school students who are looking for part time jobs or summer jobs. We do an initial assessment and then, based on the results, we advise [clients] of suitable positions,” Shahzad said.

Jake Astillero is a fourth-year social work student from the University of Regina. Although he attended the event as part of his practicum with the U of S rather than to secure employment, he believes there were opportunities within his field at the fair.

“As a social work student, I remember seeing booths with the health region, school board, a variety of others that would fall beneath the field I am in at the moment. Whatever profession you are in, they were able to connect you with future employers,” Astillero said.

Various companies and businesses from Saskatchewan attended the recruitment event, totalling 37 exhibitors. From the Saskatoon Police Force to Winners, there were an assortment of fields to pursue. In addition, a Youth Program fair was set up in the adjacent gym to provide information about student engagement programs.

Yurii Dobrystia, an international student in agricultural business, also attended the Job Fair. He is looking for part time work and a summer internship and felt that the fair was excellent because there were exhibitors within his field.

“I was surprised when I got an interview invitation right off the fair. In my opinion, international students should use all the opportunities possible and Job Fair is one of them,” Dobrystia said.

According to Shahzad, the WE Connect Job Fair hopes to make it easier for newcomers to network and be comfortable speaking to people in managerial level positions and to showcase a wide variety of jobs, especially ones that are not typically considered. The ultimate goal of the fair is for highly trained newcomers to find local jobs.

For Astillero, the job fair left an impression and he was surprised at how successful it was.

“It was busy. It was engaging, everyone was really engaged. From those in the booths to those at the event. Everyone was really engaged in learning what everyone has to offer.”

Nykole King

Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor