July 23, 2012

Coaching Connects Immigrants to IT Jobs and Closes Skills Gap

The Coaching to Career pilot program matches immigrants with senior executives in the IT field to help them find jobs commensurate with their skills and experiences.

Canada is falling behind in the technology sector because the demand for information technology professionals is outpacing supply.

The problem is two-fold, according to John Pickett, Principal and Chief Information Officer and Community Advocate at the IT Media Group.

First, there are not enough people going into IT programs in Canadian schools, and second, those who are don’t have the skills required for the jobs that exist, he says.

“It makes a big difference to a company’s ability to compete and to Canada’s ability to compete,” he says.

The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) estimates that by 2016 about 106,000 ICT jobs will need to be filled in both traditional and emerging ICT industries — an annual hiring rate of nearly 17,000.

Many newcomers have the right skills for the jobs but lack the Canadian experience and networks to help them land these jobs, says Mr. Pickett.

“That, to me, is a waste,” he says.

That’s why Mr. Pickett was keen to take part in ICTC’s pilot bridging program, Coaching to Career, which launched in May 2012 in Toronto.

The program, aimed at internationally educated professionals (IEPs) in the IT sector, provides three weeks of employment training, including workplace culture, competencies and communications.

The IEPs are then matched with a senior industry executive who provides personalized coaching for six months to help them find a job that is commensurate with their skills and experiences.

Once employed, the IEPs receive extended training and support from ICTC for the first three months in their new job.

“I see the Coaching to Career program to be a positive step in closing the skills gap by helping professionally qualified new Canadians adapt culturally to the Canadian workplace and acquire the social and communication skills that will enable them to contribute fully to the Canadian workforce and economy,” says Mr. Pickett.

Industry coaches currently participating in ICTC’s pilot program have:

  • Decision-making power inside his or her organizations.
  • A strong network of colleagues to make connections for IEPs.
  • A drive to take risks and instigate change.
  • A passion for life-long learning.

As a coach, you’re helping to make a positive contribution to the Canadian economy, says Mr. Pickett. But it’s also professionally and personally rewarding.

The coaches all receive training at the beginning of the program on how to coach, a valuable skill they can apply in the professional lives, says Mr. Pickett.

The program is also an opportunity for those who have succeeded to pay something back, he says.

“These are people who have really good, solid qualifications, more so than I’d anticipated. I think it’s a crying shame if we’re not able to help and do something to get them meaningfully employed. Not just for them but for the benefit of the companies who are currently lacking those kinds of skills.

Coaching to Career is delivered in partnership with JVS Toronto and One Million Acts of Innovation and is funded by the Ontario and federal governments.

The pilot project has two more rounds in Toronto and ICTC would like to see the program go national. To become involved, contact [email protected].

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