A new program launched today will help immigrants who were dentists, nurses, engineers or other skilled workers in their home countries put their experience to use in Manitoba by offering micro loans to help them meet Canada’s re-accreditation and training requirements.
Recognition Counts! Micro Loans for Skilled Immigrants is a two-year pilot program that will offer loans of up to $10,000 to low-income, skilled immigrants and provide them with career and financial counselling.
“We all know dentists, engineers or nurses who are driving cabs or cleaning offices so they can support their families,” said Cindy Coker, Executive Director of Supporting Employment and Economic Development (SEED) Winnipeg. “This program helps ensure that immigrants who want to work in their chosen field can get the certification, upgrading or training they need to have their education and experience recognized here. This program is built on a broad immigrant support network that will be key to each individual‘s success.”
Highlights of the new micro loans for low-income, skilled immigrants:
· Loans of up to $10, 000, with some payments as low as $10 a month during the Career Action Plan period.
· Loans can be used to cover costs associated with the Career Action Plan period including registration and exam fees, living allowance during study time or to cover household expenses like child care.
· Recipients will have up to five years to repay loans and will pay only the interest during the Career Action Plan period.
· Recipients will have 90 days after landing a job in their field or six months after finishing their Career Action Plan – whichever comes first — to begin paying back the principal, making it a uniquely flexible and affordable loan.
“These loans will help skilled immigrants move out of poverty. They will now be able to get better paying jobs to support their families. At Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) we know that stable families create stable communities and help build a stable province. And that’s good for all of us. Offering these loans is another example of ACU’s ongoing commitment to provide financial services for the benefit of people and communities,” said Nigel Mohammed, Director of ACU’s Community Financial Centre.
Recognition Counts! was designed by SEED Winnipeg and ACU in collaboration with the Manitoba Government. Manitoba Immigration and Multiculturalism and the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans Pilot Project of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) fund the program. HRSDC is providing SEED Winnipeg with $1.2 million, including $1 million for a loan loss reserve that will guarantee 80 percent of each loan. SEED plans to grow the loan loss reserve.
“Manitoba continues to work on initiatives that help internationally educated immigrants work in their fields sooner,” said Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Christine Melnick. “These loans are another example of Manitoba’s commitment to help overcome barriers to qualifications recognition that prevent skilled workers from entering the labour market.”
The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, also spoke at the event. “Our Government’s top priorities are job creation and economic growth and we need to address the growing skills and labour shortages faced by many regions of the country,” said Minister Finley. “By partnering with the Government of Manitoba and organizations like SEED Winnipeg to help internationally trained professionals put their skills to work sooner, we are working together for Canada’s long-term prosperity.”
Facts on Recognition Counts!
The micro loan:
· is up to $10,000
· can be repaid over five years
· interest rate is fixed at prime +2%
· has no loan fees
· a credit history in Canada is not required
· repayment is interest only during the immigrant’s certification/study period (min $10/mo)
· repayment of principal and interest starts 90 days after the applicant finds employment in their field or within six months of finishing the Career Action Plan, whichever comes first.
The loan can be used for:
· living expenses (e.g. food, shelter, transportation, childcare, etc.)
· tuition, textbooks and computers
· expenses associated with costs of registration or licensing with a professional regulatory body or association or Apprenticeship Manitoba
· tools, equipment, work clothes, personal protective equipment
An ideal applicant for Recognition Counts!:
· came to Canada within the last 10 years, is a permanent resident or a Canadian Citizen born outside of Canada, and is a resident of Manitoba
· is from a low income household (i.e. $23,298 annual income for a single person)
· can get the certification, upgrading or training they need in two years or less
· has a strong likelihood of employment in their field on completion
· creates a Career Action Plan that lists all the steps and costs to complete certification/study
· agrees to work with SEED Winnipeg to develop a financial plan and to take part in financial literacy training if needed
· is or becomes an ACU member to apply for a loan
An ideal candidate must be referred through a Recognition Counts! partner like:
· Manitoba Start
· Employment Manitoba
· Workplace Integration of Skilled Newcomers in the Trades
· Success Skills Centre
· Employment Projects of Winnipeg
· Jewish Child and Family Services
· or a bridging and gap training program from a Manitoba post-secondary institution
SEED Winnipeg will:
· accept and approve applicants from the organizations that refer skilled immigrants
· help applicants with financial planning and review their Career Action Plan
· refer applicants to ACU if they require a loan
· continue to raise funds to increase the loan loss reserve available to guarantee loans
· accept and approve loan applications and manage the loan loss reserve.
Immigration and Multiculturalism Manitoba will:
· provide $250,000 in funding to cover costs of program administration over a 3-year period and be a referral organization through various provincial departments and agencies that support immigrants.
Foreign Credential Recognition Loans Pilot Project of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada will:
· provide $1,237,442 in funding which includes $1 million for a loan loss reserve that will guarantee 80 percent of each loan; and coordinate national research on all pilot sites.
Facts on Immigration
By the numbers*
Number of immigrants to Manitoba in 2011
Number of immigrants to Manitoba in 1999
Increase in immigrants in the last 10 years
Of Canada’s total population was made up of Manitobans in 2011
Of Canada’s total new immigrant population came to Manitoba in 2011
Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Winnipeg
Top four most popular destinations in Canada for immigrants in 2011
Manitoba Provincial Nominees that become homeowners after five years
Manitoba immigrants that have post-secondary education and solid work experience
Health professionals, trades people and accounting professionals
Top occupations of Manitoba economic immigrants
*Statistics Source: Manitoba – Immigration and Multiculturalism
Our first loan applicants
Experience: 7 years
Esam Beshay credits his mentors Dr. Salama, Dr. Louka and Manitoba Fairness Commissioner Ximena Munoz with inspiring him to get accredited as a dentist in Manitoba.
For seven years Dr. Esam Beshay worked every morning at the Egyptian government health clinic. And then he worked every afternoon and evening at his own private practice. Six days a week.
Needless to say he’s very experienced. But when a trip to Winnipeg to visit his wife’s family turned into permanent residency in 2010 he faced a different life entirely.
Getting certified as a dentist here was going to take more time and money than the family had. One clinical exam alone is $4,000; some of the dozen of dental instruments he needs are $2,000 a piece. And then once all the exams are passed the dental association registration fees and insurance is going to be over $3,500.
To compound things, most of the exams are only offered once a year. Esam says it’s critical to be well prepared for those rare opportunities, so he’ll need to stop working as a file clerk at a local dental clinic to study.
“All our savings are gone,” Esam says. With a family of four to support, Esam turned to Recognition Counts! for a loan to cover living expenses.
“I have been blessed,” he says adding he hopes to practice in Northern Manitoba when he is certified.
Experience: 4 years
Xi Hu credits SEED staff like Dennis Mamattah with making the skill upgrading process so much easier.
In her early 40s Xin Hu decided she needed to come to Canada to give her 12-year-old daughter a different education.
“Chinese children have to study very, very hard. They go to extra classes outside of school all the time. She wasn’t able to have a life there.”
Now Xin is the one studying very, very hard and struggling to have a life here in Canada.
She was a practicing nurse for years in China. Her career plan is to apply her passion for health care and become a lab technician in Manitoba.
However studying in a full time program was too heavy a load for her, with her husband still in China. She realized she could no longer hold down her part-time job as a support worker for a disabled elderly couple.
“This course is very intense so I couldn’t keep the job. So I applied for this loan,” Xin says.
“If I didn’t have this loan my life and my daughter’s life would be very difficult.”
Xin will use her loan to pay for tuition and to cover simple living costs like paying her rent, phone bill and buying food.
Engineer: Philippines and Saudi Arabia
Experience: 30 years
Abelardo Domingo has engineered everything from retaining walls to 33-storey buildings from the Philippines to Saudi Arabia. He’s worked for some of the world’s largest construction companies.
But when he looked into the future he saw the lives of his young sons and knew he needed to do better by them.
“ Growing up in North America is much better for them and has greater advantages for them,” Abelardo says.
He, his wife and sons came to Canada two years ago. He’s already worked across Canada’s north as a design and construction project manager and construction designer — working under an engineer.
He’s back at school now to become a certified engineer studying five days a week at the University of Manitoba.
But living on his wife’s salary as an independent living attendant, while he goes to school, means they need other income. He’s turned to Recognition Counts! to help make ends meet.