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New Canadians moving forward in automotive careers in Atlantic Canada

June 4, 2022

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

Patrick Soumaro had never imagined himself finishing a college program, let alone his automotive installation certificate of completion from Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) in Canada.

That’s because Soumaro, 39, had spent the previous 26 years of his life living in an Ivory Coast refugee camp after fleeing for his life at the age of 13 when civil war broke out in his native Liberia. He had lost his father in the war and never had the opportunity to have formal schooling.

He managed to acquire seven years of informal training at the refugee camp in automotive work in a friend’s garage.

“I tried to follow friends in the garage; it was really street training,” he says. “They used to do bodywork, rust work, wiring.”

That experience proved invaluable when he was offered a spot in the automotive installation program through Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), a settlement agency in the province.

First introduced in 2016, the course includes fundamentals in safety standards, PPE, sector-specific terminology, car maintenance, and other things they’d see on a regular basis while working in a shop, says NCSS’s Transportation Department facilitator Dave Giles.

The course instructs them in tasks like oil and tire changes, accessories, exhaust and other variables that don’t require licensing.

“Tire shops and places like Mr. Lube don’t require licensed personnel, so they can sell, repair, balance, install and other tasks so long as they’re not trade regulated,” says Giles.

And that provides a good entry point into the Canadian marketplace for many new Canadians says Mohja Alia, employment services manager with ISANS.

In response to labour market demand, ISANS identified three courses construction, food industry and automotive installation, says Alia.

“They are very successful programs,” she says. “Many people get jobs very quickly.”

She says some clients arrive in Canada with automotive experience in their home countries already under their belt which helps them get started with an apprenticeship. And some entrepreneurial clients move through the program and strike out on their own.

“We had someone start their own tire changing business,” says Alia. “We try to support business start-ups.”

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