A job fair held to help Ukrainian evacuees find employment while they stay in Calgary, was a massive success on Saturday.
The June 11 fair drew more than 500 job seekers, and caused long lines outside St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Sobor in the rain, awaiting their chance to speak to 35 different employers.
For most of the afternoon, the upper community hall of St. Vladimir’s was limited to fire-code capacity.
“It’s absolutely overwhelmingly positive,” said Sue Homik, a volunteer with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ Calgary branch evacuee committee.
“I believe we effectively got the word out to both employers and the Ukrainian community, and we in fact, had to turn away several employers who wanted to be part of this.”
Employers for Fairmont, Delta, and Sheraton hotels were joined by food producers JBS Canada and Saputo, alongside manufacturing and oil and gas firms like Engineered Air and Precision Drilling. These were some of the 35 employers who were on hand to take resumes and provide on the spot interviews for job seekers.
“I really think that everyone in Canada wants to help. They just don’t know how, and we’re very blessed to have a growing economy right now,” said Homik.
“I believe that employers recognize that these newcomers, these Ukrainian newcomers, are very eager to seek employment to get employment right away.”
One of the challenges that Ukrainian evacuees face is that they’re not considered refugees, limiting the types of social supports they can receive while seeking an escape from the war in their nation.
“They immediately need survival jobs, whether or not they’re getting jobs in their professions.”
From dentist to potential small business owner
Anastasia Yavtushenko was one of the evacuees who was looking for work at the job far on Saturday.
Prior to coming to Canada, Yavtushenko was a dentist.
“It was so difficult to go from Ukraine and to go to Canada, to understand that here I will be not be a dentist here.” she said.
“But I prefer to be here to be in a safe place, to work in any kind of job than to stay in Ukraine with the bombs and hiding in the basement.”
One of the ways she is looking to create income for her family is through potentially opening a small business.
A number of social support agencies were on hand at the job fair to assist Ukrainians looking to navigate the rules and regulations about starting small businesses.
She said that one of her ideas was to start an jewellery business, focusing on earrings.
“It will be not the same design, not the same construction, it will be much more interesting innovation.”
Difficult and expensive to have credentials recognized
Given the choice though, Yavtushenko would prefer to remain a dentist, saying that she would be “more useful as a dentist.”
“I’m professional in this,” she said.
Among the challenges that professionals like Yavtushenko face is the high cost of having credentials recognized.
For example, to register as a dentist in Alberta, individuals must first obtain a National Dental Examining Board of Canada certificate, before being able to apply to the Alberta Dental Association and College.
This process requires an assessment of fundamental knowledge, an assessment of clinical skills and judgment, and for those not holding an degree recognized as accredited in Canada, courses to obtain a Canadian degree.
In total, the NDEB application and assessment fees total $10,500, Alberta Dental Association and College feed and dues at $3,900, and between $2,500 to $15,000 for courses to obtain a Canadian degree.
The Alberta Government provides a listing of all of the foreign qualification recognition requirements, and costs, on Alberta.ca.
Yavtushenko said that she would like to have to opportunity to provide medical care to her fellow Ukrainians.
“For people, for doctors, for a country to have more possibilities to have good health. And a lot of people say that Canadian health care is good health care, but not all of Ukrainians have such health care,” she said.
Opportunities for Calgary employers
Jon Yee, vice-president of strategy for the Centre for Newcomers, said that the job fair was incredibly important.
“Without government support, how are these people supposed to eat? How are they supposed to pay rent? How are they supposed to provide the basic needs for the children?” he said.
He said specialized job fairs like the one held on Saturday provides an opportunity for partner agencies to provide services and supports to job seekers, like translators. This helps to bridge the language gap that would otherwise cause some employers to miss out on great candidates.
Tanya McCagherty, manger of employment programs and services with Immigrant Services Calgary said her agency was helping to connect evacuees with English language courses. They’re also working with evacuees to re-credential in their professions.
She said it was about finding ways of matching opportunities and needs.
“We’ve been here for a month now knowing the numbers of Ukrainians that are coming in, and the need that is there. Calgary is also facing a bit of a labour shortage and high turnover, so I think it’s almost—I don’t want to say perfect storm—but that opportunity meets need.”
Yee said that for a variety of employers, this represents an opportunity to hire highly skilled people for in demand professions, like the tech sector.
“We’re trying to be a technology innovation hub now, so why not look for those types of skills to bring them into Calgary. Digital skills are global, you don’t need to be in Canada to learn those skills,” he said.
And, said Yee, employers have a big role in helping those in need, not just Ukrainians.
“It’s awesome to see the community support from employers—private industry needs to be a partner in all of this,” he said.
“We need to hold these job fairs for Afghanistan people, for Syrian people, for other countries in crisis who are coming to this country, and we need to try to hold these job fairs in those languages and those communities.”