New RRC program helps refugees gain language and construction skills


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One by one, the class of refugees from Syria and Africa stood, stated their name and home country, and told a bit about themselves to visiting media.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/03/2017 (2207 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One by one, the class of refugees from Syria and Africa stood, stated their name and home country, and told a bit about themselves to visiting media.

The students are part of a new program that began last week by Red River College to teach English to new refugees and provide work experience in construction jobs. The Pallister government initiative was prompted by the influx of Syrian refugees last year.

“Many of the Syrians are coming in with virtually no English,” said RRC president Paul Vogt.

Their introduction to the media was not only a good exercise practising their new language, but in presenting themselves and showing confidence.

When one student slightly mispronounced ‘electrician’ as his previous work experience, the teacher stepped in with the proper pronunciation. “We’ve been working on that word,” the teacher explains.

The province brought together employers and refugee agencies to brainstorm on what was needed for newcomers to succeed, and the program is the result.

At the end of the four-month course, students will participate in a paid month-long, full-time work placement to refine skills and obtain on-the-job experience. The one-month placements will be in areas of drywalling, masonry, and flat-top roofing.

Students stand a good chance of finding employment. The employers involved are not just in the program for training but are seeking new employees, said Vogt.

Gregorie Bomay, 48, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was the equivalent of a conservation officer in his home country, and then was a truck driver when he relocated to Uganda. Farhan Alfareij, 37, was a farmer, painter, and livestock transport driver in Syria. Wasel Alanis, 38, worked as a home decorator, electrician and tanker truck driver in Syria.

None have been able to find work here due to their limited English skills and lack of work experience in Canada.

“I thank God because of this opportunity,” said Bomay.

“For us, it’s just exciting. We’re hopeful in the future it will be scaled up to include all immigrants,” said Vicky Sinclair, executive director of Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations (MAMSO).

Sinclair said students pick up language quicker when learning occupation-specific language.

Vogt said refugees in the United States crossing the border at Emerson could be eligible for the program but may be over-qualified. In many of those cases, the people have lived in the U.S. for up to 10 years and have a higher level of English language skills. “This program may not be for them,” Vogt said.

The refugees are studying at the RRC campus in the upstairs of the historic VIA Rail building on Main Street. Another 20 students will start a new program in the fall. The cost for the two programs is $225,000.

The program was developed in partnership with the Winnipeg Construction Association, Alpha Masonry, Allies Roofing, Econo Wall and Ceilings Ltd., Immigrant Centre Manitoba, Manitoba Start, and the Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations.

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