2.C Settlement and Integration
C.8 How is language treated?
(vii) How should refugees balance language acquisition with employment searching?
How Canada Does It
Resource guides for privately sponsored refugees emphasize the benefits to delayed entry into the job market in favor of language learning. Even if sponsored refugees have some English or French language skills, those skills may not be strong enough to work in their preferred profession. Most regulated occupations and trades require fluency in English or French and to have a strong knowledge of all work-related language. Given that refugees receive income support for their first year in Canada, they have a prime opportunity to improve their English or French through classes and conversation. Sponsors may encourage refugees to find out the language requirements they must meet to work in their profession, and spend their first year working towards establishing strong language skills before entering the job market.
On the other hand, many refugees have been out of school for many years and are keen to begin work as soon as they can. Combining part-time work, part-time language training, and sponsor tutoring may be a better option for some.
Strong language skills are needed to enter into Canada’s labour market. Resource guides for privately sponsored refugees emphasize the benefits to delayed entry into the job market in favor of language learning. Given that refugees receive income support for their first year in Canada, they have a prime opportunity to improve their English or French through classes and conversation. Even if refugees enter the job market within their first year of arrival, language training is available on a part-time basis, during the day, evening or on weekends.
Entering the job market too soon may mean that refugees obtain employment in low-skilled jobs that do not harness their existing experience and expertise. Early entry may also delay opportunities for formal language training, skills upgrading, and accreditation for existing credentials in Canada. For more information, see 2.C.3(i).
Federally funded settlement language programming includes advanced classes focused on workplace-specific skills to help sponsored refugees find a job that matches their skills and qualifications. These classes may offer work placements, mentoring, orientation to the workplace, and licensing exam preparation. Employment-focused language training is offered for the workplace (pre-employment) and in the workplace (while employed).
Sponsors may encourage refugees to establish strong language skills before entering the job market. However, it is ultimately the sponsored refugees’ decision how much to focus on language learning and employment. Entering the job market early may help refugees become financially self-sufficient sooner and increase their sense of empowerment over their own lives by being able to care for their families. Refugees have varying educational and work backgrounds which require flexible responses with respect to integration. Highly skilled and educated refugees may not be as successful in a formal school setting. Many refugees have been out of school for many years and are eager to begin work as soon as they can. Sitting in a classroom all day for months may not be an option for them. For some refugees, entering the workforce early while continuing to take part-time language classes, supplemented by sponsor tutoring, may accelerate their language acquisition and integration.