Beyond Taxi Drivers and Housekeepers: How an Albertan Non-Profit Group Gives Immigrant Professionals an Employment Chance
Internationally educated professionals (IEP) get the opportunity to move beyond employment as taxi drivers and housekeeping staff through a bridging program at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN). It is a partnership between EMCN and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT); it includes the engineering and accounting professions. It recognizes prior learning and focuses on filling the gap with Canadian job-related content. Its overall objective is to facilitate successful integration into the both the Canadian work environment and the society as a whole. EMCN offers communication courses such as writing, job search, workplace culture, computer training, pronunciation, reading, public speaking, etc. Proficiency in these skill areas would enable foreign second language learners to achieve their goal of becoming employed in their field of study or training. The students complete four months of training at the EMCN and another four to seven months at NAIT depending on their field of study. The most challenging question facing instructors in this environment is how students experience their learning and our teaching in a culturally diverse classroom. How do instructors manage that many cultures in a class of about 20 students? This example may highlight the reality. Anecdotally, I remember a teamwork assignment in 2006 with accounting students where students were grouped randomly. In one group of five, there were four different continents and five cultures represented: Africa, South America, Europe, and Asia (China and the Philippines). In addition, gender issues surfaced as male members jockeyed for leadership roles over the female members. Students later commented on their frustration in working with such diversity. How does one manage cultural diversity in a classroom? There are several challenges to be faced.
Keywords: Exemplary Practice, Outcome of Practice, Knowledge, Putting Theory and Research into Practice, Challenges, Opportunities
Lead Instructor, Professional Programs, Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN)