Toolkit makes hiring Syrian refugees less difficult for employers
Friday, October 14, 2016

After being detained for two months in a Syrian government prison, Abdelbary Alsado is grateful for the chance to start a new life in Canada.

Alsado arrived in Edmonton as a refugee in February, happy that after years of living in war torn Raqqa and then Damascus in his home country, he lives in a community where the streets are safe.

But now after several months of adjusting to life in Alberta, he's now itching to get back to his work as a doctor.

"The first step is being safe, that's great. The other part is getting a job and being a part of this community," Alsado said.

He's on his way after landing a job last week as a lab assistant.

"I'm just getting back to my job. It's a first step and that's great."

He's a bit frustrated that while he's trained as a physician, it will take some time before he can move into an equivalent job here.

Alsado is working with a settlement counsellor at the Bredin Centre for Learning which tries to help people find jobs or training.

The program there starts with having his qualifications evaluated, before preparing him for the exams he'll need to pass to reach his goal of working as a doctor in Canada.

The agency is already impressed that Alsado is working in his field in a job that can support him and his family.

Bredin is part of the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council which has produced a new toolkit for businesses to help Syrian refugees find work.

It explains some cultural sensitivities and the kind of help the refugees need to integrate in the workplace and understand what's expected of them.

"Many of the employers are fantastic," said Tarek Fath Elbab, a settlement counsellor with the Bredin Centre. "They come to us and ask, 'How we can help? We want to help, but we don't know how to do it'."

More than a thousand refugees have arrived in Alberta and while many want to start working again, Fath Elbab explains there are still barriers such as language skills.

Foreign credentials is another issue given some people ran for their lives, leaving behind any proof of training and, in some cases, the training schools are in war zones and unreachable.

"Many of them they were business owners," Fath Elbab said. "It's not easy for them to come here and being told, 'You don't have any money', 'You don't have any skills', 'You have to go to work in a kitchen'," he said.

Still Fath Elbab is helping many settle here in Edmonton as well as guiding them through the job and training programs available.

Julie Kamal, with Edmonton Refugee Volunteers, said the current government settlement plans are rightly focussing on language skills, housing, health care and finding work.

But she's encouraging other employers to come forward with possible job shadowing programs in addition to part- or full-time work to try to give those who already have skills to rebuild their lives and feel a part of things.

That's something Alsado is thrilled to be doing already even if it's just the first step to his dream of practising as a doctor again.

"If you're not working, you're not alive," he said.

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Source: CBC / Gareth Hampshire

Photo: Tarek Fath Elbab works to get refugees jobs in his role at the Bredin Centre for Learning. (Trevor Wilson CBC News)