Building Bridges with Transferable Skills: Immigrant Women can explore unique paths to self/employment and entrepreneurship

Many skilled and experienced newcomer women arrive in Canada looking for jobs in their original profession, only to find their educational and professional experiences are unvalued and seen as useless in Canada. When newcomers’ skills and experiences are not recognized by Canadian employers, and they struggle to find or keep a job, they often need to manoeuvre outside of typical career pathways. For example, many newcomer women often become entrepreneurs or self-employed. With special talents, creative interests, problem solving skills, international experience, and diverse perspectives and experiences, newcomer women have the potential to enrich Canada’s labour market and transform the entrepreneurial scene. However, they often are not familiar with Canada’s labour market trends, workplace culture, and how to plan and start a business in Canada’s context. 

Our Building Bridges program collaborates with local organisations across the Lower Mainland to invite guest speakers and make information and resources accessible, so that we can best support our participants in these areas. Moreover, in response to current and future labour market needs, the Employment and Social Development Canada published a “Skills for Success” model in 2021 that emphasises the importance of transferable skills – such as adaptability, creativity and innovation, communication, collaboration, and problem solving, along with a new emphasis on digital literacy for employment. All of the transferable skills are important life skills that are also essential to entrepreneurship or starting a new business. Thus, Building Bridges works to build and elevate immigrant and refugee women’s transferable skills, and to support them in finding new pathways to successful and meaningful careers in Canada. 

We invited Florence Kao, Self-Employment Program Coordinator at DIVERSECity, to speak to our program participants about their Immigrant Entrepreneurship and the Business Incubator programs, which provide hands-on training and ongoing one on one support to newcomer women entrepreneurs in developing business opportunities based on their talents and interests. Thao Tran from the Family Services of Greater Vancouver was invited to deliver Financial Empowerment workshops, because financial decision-making and money management are important transferable life skills that are not necessarily taught in education institutions; financial literacy and budgetary management in the Canadian context is particularly important for newcomer immigrant women to have both economic and career success. With the right resources and support, skilled and talented women with international and global connections and experiences are quite well-equipped to start small businesses of their own. 

We hope many of our skilled and talented immigrant and refugee women will feel inspired, confident, and supported to invest their individual strengths and transferable skills into the creative paths of self-employment and entrepreneurship. Working in collaboration with other programs and agencies, we aim to build an environment and support network that can encourage and support them to explore ways to turn creative skills, interests, and passions into business or social enterprises. Whether our participants are interested in employment, self-employment, or entrepreneurship, transferable and entrepreneurial skills like leadership, creativity, communication, collaboration, adaptability, and resiliency are vital for success in life in Canada. It’s time to foster our assets and unleash our potential, as we create our own path to success – whether we start small or big, or simply enjoy the experience of learning alongside talented women!

Building Bridges program is funded by United Way of the Lower Mainland, and individual donors. Thank you for your generous support! To become a supporter, click here.

Our next cohort begins in February 2023, click here for more information.