When people come to this country, whether they’re migrants or refugees, most want to work and make a meaningful contribution to society. Lack of English can be a major barrier. That’s why Avia Employment Services is now offering Arabic services in Richmond.
During 2016, Coquitlam and Surrey’s branches of Avia developed an Arabic program in order to support Syrian refugees. “We didn’t feel as much impact from the refugee crisis, possibly because of the cost of living in Richmond, but over the past couple of years we’ve begun to research who’s here that could be accessing Avia’s services,” says Lonnie Belfer, Industry & Community Relationship Liaison for Employment Services. “We discovered that there’s a large number of Arabic speakers who are struggling because of low levels of English, so we developed a program specifically for them.”
The first step was to hire an Arabic-speaking Job Developer who can help people write their resumés, assist with the job search, and even support with understanding cultural difference, both one on one and in workshops. She can also help clients access English classes, both free and paid for. “It’s packaging what we do for everyone in the community, but framing it around the needs of someone with a low level of English and perhaps no support network here,” explains Belfer.
The Arabic Program launched in January 2018 and there were 25 existing clients of Avia who could immediately use the service. The agency is now connecting with groups who work with the Arabic-speaking population to help advertise the service to the wider community. “We have a lot of people here who want to work and feel like they can’t because of language or cultural barriers,” says Belfer. “This program is very exciting because it provides opportunities for them to break down those barriers and get employment.”
Belfer says that jobseeking in Richmond can be intimidating to newcomers because there are predominating cultures that are non-English, so plans are in the works to roll out this program in other languages, and also to adapt Avia’s services for other groups such as young people. “Ultimately, we want to find the best way of engaging with all populations,” he says.
Avia Employment Services is a division of Back in Motion Rehab. Its Richmond branch is at #290 – 3631 No. 3 Road. Drop in, call 778-732-0285 or visit Aviaemployment.ca to find out more.
The Employment Program of British Columbia is funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia.