Newcomers to Canada often face a contradictory scenario—on the one hand are the excitement of a new place, laced with expectations and promise; on the other, the stress and uncertainty associated with finding one’s feet and settling down. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations that help them cope with their challenges. Next-Steps Employment Centers, operated by the Toronto District School Board are part of the sup-port networks that exist for new Canadians. Jobseekers across Toronto, Mississauga and York region can avail of the services offered by these centers in seven different locations. Generation Next had the opportunity to talk to Cristina Gradia, Project Administrator for the Scarborough Rouge Next-Steps Employment Centre. Excerpts from the conversation: GN: How exactly do you help with employment search? CG: We are funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. We have been mandated to pro-vide a full range of employment services. These include service planning and coordination, which involve one-on-one interaction with our employment advisor. Anybody who is looking for work and is legally entitled to work in Canada can come in. The other part of our service is we also have an Employment Resource Centre—it’s self-service where you could come in and use our computers, fax, photocopier, printer, look at the job board. We also have a directory—an online directory, we have books and resources on resume writing, networking, interview skills etc. We also do little workshops on a daily basis—that includes resume writing, cover letter writing…we also do career-planning workshops. The other part of our services is called Job Development Services—we connect with employers to search job opportunities for our clients. We also offer financial assistance…It’s a great incentive to give someone an opportunity, maybe somebody who is a grad out of school without much experience, to somebody who’s new to Canada without much work experience to somebody who’s a stay-at-home mom who hasn’t worked for a number of years.GN: How big do you think is the language issue with regard to new Canadians? A lot of them have already passed the IELTS test be-fore becoming Canadian citizens. How important do you think it is for them to get acquainted with the language? CG: Depending on the type of work they’re looking for, it is very important. One of the things our employment ad-visor does is to make recommendation or assessment for English upgrading through classes. We also do referrals to programs like language training programs, which are sector specific for some-body’s field.GN: What steps can fresh graduates take to increase their chances of employment even as the wait to get a job? CG: They can come here and see an advisor. The work-shops can help them create a resume. If they don’t have much experience, we can highlight the skills they acquired while they were in school and also work with the job developers. GN: But what about those graduates who might not come to your organization? CG: I think it’s really important to network in their industry—joining associations, network with their teachers and professors. If there’s an organization you’re interested to work in, make contact with someone who is in a position that they are aspiring to be in. Most people are actually willing to answer questions about what they do. We have people job-shadow some of our staff to see what a staff’s typical day was like, to get a realistic view. GN: What are some of the major employment concerns of the South Asian community? CG: A lot of South Asians we see are newcomers. (Their challenges are) lack of Canadian work experience and getting their credentials recognized. We actually have client support, financial sup-port to help them have their credentials assessed. We can assist them with it, make a referral and also help pay for it. GN: How big do you think is the foreign credential recognition issue? CG: If they are planning to continue employment in their industry, it is very important. A lot of employers aren’t aware what the diplomas and degrees…GN: What do you think of the emphasis on Canadian experience for newcomers? In fields like IT, one needs standardized skills. So how important is the Canadian experience? CG: I personally think we don’t undervalue their experience outside Canada, but a lot of employers are unaware of what those skills have been…it’s important for them to learn how things happen in Canada, how to apply those skills they acquired back home in a Canadian setting. GN: But is Canadian experience that critical to a person’s final level of productivity? CG: Not productivity. I think a lot of newcomers need assistance with communication, with their understanding of the Canadian lingo. GN: Do you help with that? CG: Yes, we do. We can definitely assist with providing some directions. We have a financial incentive pro-gram—through Employment Ontario, we can offer employers up to $8,000 incentive to offset the cost of wages for a period of time, usually the training period. For example, we had an employer who thought one of our newcomer clients with great skills who met their criteria. However, since he hadn’t worked in Canada, the employer wasn’t sure. We said, what if we offer you a training incentive for the client? So for the first six weeks of employment, we pay about five dollars of their wage? Will you be willing to take on the client, train them…at the end of the six weeks, if you are satisfied with the client’s performance, you can hire them. The incentive depends on what the actual wage is going to be and on the challenges the client faces. We have a formula we work on for offering the incentive.