Project aimed at immigrant women in Olds, Innisfail
The Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association (CAIWA) is hoping a $300,000 federal grant will go a long way to help women in rural communities such as Innisfail and Olds find appropriate employment.
Announced earlier this month, the money is intended to fund a project to work with local community partners to develop and implement a plan promoting the economic security and prosperity of immigrant women in Innisfail, Olds, Red Deer, Lacombe and Ponoka.
“We want to close the gaps so women don’t come here and stay in poverty,” said Tabitha Phiri, women’s economic security program coordinator with CAIWA. “When they came here they were thinking it was greener pastures but still they end up in the worst situation.”
She said women come to Canada with a degree and work experience but end up working at jobs well below their skill set because of the gap between employer and employees. Things she heard from the first focus group they held June 22 included comments from women who said they go into an interview nervous about the language barrier and end up coming across as incompetent. In other situations they are told they had an excellent interview, but the employer is looking for someone with Canadian experience.
“If no one will hire them to begin with then how will they ever get Canadian experience?”
For the first year of the project, an advisory committee is forming and Phiri said they are still looking for members in Innisfail and Olds to join.
“We want people who are familiar with their community and can help with ideas.” She said she plans to visit the two towns this week and find the right representative who will connect her with the women in need of the services. She said then they will offer focus groups in the remaining communities to learn what barriers the women are facing and compare it to feedback they have gathered from other communities.
The second year they will generate and review the output with the plan to implement programs that will help in the final year, she said.
Some examples include talking with businesses to identify how they feel about hiring immigrant women or, if they have employed immigrant women, what challenges they faced.
“If these people are hired they just need orientation because the stuff they are doing in Canada is the same stuff they are doing in their country of origin,” she said.
Going forward she said she’d like to get businesses on board to offer immigrant women six months of placement.
“They can pay them minimum wage while training them but then at the end of the six months … if they don’t have a position for them then the woman knows she has a reference and can look for a job and say they were employed here for six months.”
She also hopes to get in contact with the colleges in Olds and Red Deer and determine if a program could be offered to help women learn how to function in a Canadian work environment.
The CAWIA received its funding under the Status of Women Canada’s Women Program where more than $14 million has been invested in 55 projects across the country.
Anyone interested in learning more about the program is asked to call the CAIWA in Red Deer at (403) 341-3553.