A Story from 204FM Community by Leila Castro
Three weeks ago, there was a call at the 204 Filipino Marketplace community to form a group dedicated for job hunters and job postings. We formed the 204FM Pinoy Job Hunters group. To date it has 1.6K members and growing fast, and there were lots of desperate posts about looking to land on any job. I made a quick search on indeed.com which returned over 4000 available jobs in Manitoba. I talked to my friends who are community and immigrant workers to get an expert’s view about what is going on. They all referred me to Milagros Simeon Dacwang.
Mila is an Intake Counsellor at SOPA (Settlement Online Pre-Arrival). SOPA started as a program in November of 2015. SOPA is an intensive program that gives the immigrant the advantage of preparedness on how to apply for a job even before arriving in Canada. Mila said that they have tracked their students and SOPA has a success rate of 70%. It means that 7 out of 10 students who completed the program landed on a related job within 3 months. She is surprised that she does not see any member posting or commenting inquiries or statuses about SOPA at 204 Filipino Marketplace. I met with Mila at downtown last week and interviewed her for this article.
How long should it take for a new immigrant to find a job?
“According to Canada government, 6 months is ideal for them to get a job. I personally think it should be in 3 months because you will start to run out of money. Our SOPA program says in 3 months time the immigrant should land on a job that is as much as possible related to the profession back home. Say you are a project manager in the Philippines, you can be hired here as project manager, and that is happening. If it is a regulated career, you can get a job we call as “the foot on the door” or the entry level positions. If you are a nurse, then at least be a health care aide. If you can’t land on a job as health care aide, there must be a reason for that. if you cannot find a related job or entry level position for a regulated career (plan A) within 3 months, then you go for survival job (plan B).”
What is a survival job?
“Before immigrants come here, they should know their passion, should have a career goal, should have a short-term plan (plan A and plan B), and long-term plan.
Your passion is the work that is in line with your skills and experiences. Survival job is the job unrelated to your experiences back home. What Canada wants is you will land on a job that is at least related to what you do.
But survival job need not be a low paying job. There are production workers who earn 30 dollars per hour. Initially SOPA clients tell us that they are looking for any job. What SOPA advises is go first to the plan A (related on the carrer goal) and in within 3 months that no job related to the career goal is found, then go to plan B which is the survival job.”
You are actively supporting the 204FM Pinoy Job Hunters. Do you think the fast rising number of its members is an indication that Filipinos are not getting jobs according to their goal?
“I don’t have an answer to that. But I can give you the success rate figures of SOPA.
SOPA has a success rate of 70%. Meaning that of the new immigrants that underwent the program, 70% found a job in 3 months that is in line with their career goal (plan A). For Manitoba, many Filipinos registered for the program. But of all the Filipinos who registered, 60% did not go through it. Say of 10 Filipinos that registered, only 4 of them took the program; compared to immigrants from Israel where of 5 of them registered, all 5 of them took the program and completed. Of those who took the SOPA program, the success rate for non-Filipinos is 90% (in our example that was 4 successful out of 5 from Israel); compared to Filipinos with only 60% success rate (in our example that was 3 successful out of 4 Filipinos). It’s because most Filipinos do not complete the SOPA program despite starting it.
Tell me more about SOPA? How helpful is it to an immigrant?
“SOPA help’s new comer in their pre-arrival. We focus on their plan. We emphasize on their career goal, and this should have both the short term and the long term. With our SOPA, the government wanted the immigrants who are coming who have the technical skills, to gain the soft skills (understanding about the Canadian workplace). That is the information we can give them.
When immigrants do the short-term career planning, the number one important thing is to know the passion, because that will land them on the job. If they have the passion on the job, they know how to respond during interviews because they have a background on the position they are applying for. During interview, there are two types of questions asked, the technical and the behavioral. If they ask you, “Tell me about yourself,” you tell them what is your experience.
Then after a while you will notice that the next question is, “Tell me a time when you had a client who reacted this way, and how you handled that situation”.
So that is a sample way that the interviewer finds out how the immigrant handles the situation. They want to know your technique, your behavior and your attitude towards the situation. It is important for them to know that you have the technical skills and that you are able to adapt to the Canadian workplace.
That is the reason why there is a pre-arrival program, so the immigrant will know on how to integrate to the Canadian workplace. For example, here in Canada, we do not use Sir or Ma’am, we are all equal. Not knowing the culture might even be the reason why you will lose your job. For example, we have a SOPA client who lost her job and the reason was she was not doing the professional communication. Our client enrolled in the SOPA program but did not take it by heart because her assumption was having the technical skills was sufficient to land on a job. The client looked back and realized that during breaktime she still continued working. Here in Canada, breaktime should be breaktime. That is where you develolp the smalltalk. In other countries, smalltalk is gossiping but in Canada it is the way to develop your relationship with your co-worker. “
Another important thing that I learned from Mila is that recruitment agencies are given information on who completed the SOPA because they want applicants in the interview shortlist that are ready to integrate to the Canadian workplace. If the applicant underwent SOPA, there is higher likelihood that the applicant will be interviewed.
The second part of this article that will come out in the next issue. Mila will tell us in detail how to undertake the SOPA and other pre-arrival preparations to be better prepared for the Canadian Job market even before setting foot here.