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Mechanics begin classes in Canada


Colleen Connors
Career writer

It’s a Tuesday morning in a classroom at College of the North Atlantic and 15 men from Jamaica sit at tables, bundled up with hats, gloves and big fluffy winter coats.

Each has a notebook and pen handy, jotting down numbers and notes during their first day at the Bay St. George campus. The 15 Jamaicans are here to complete the Truck and Transport Mechanic program. They will be living in residence and attending school here for the next eight months. 

“I am delighted they are here,” says Chris Turpin, Manager of International Business Development with the college who helped the Jamaican students make their way to CNA. “There is a tremendous amount of opportunity for them with this kind of training, and we look forward to doing more of it.” 

The college has operations in Qatar and China, but Turpin focuses on building relationships with other parts of the world. The past couple of years there have been stronger focuses on student recruitment in India, Libya and Central and South America. And since last spring, Jamaica has become the focus. 

In May of 2009 the college signed an agreement with the Jamaican government to provide college-level training to Jamaican citizens. These 15 men are the first students to benefit from the partnership. 

The strategy starts with identifying industries with labour shortages in Canada. The college then works with the Jamaican government to identify individuals with experience in those industries who are currently underemployed or without work. 

“We assess them here under our standards and then we work with representatives from the Jamaican government who look for shortages across their country. The idea would be to find a placement in Canada that also fits with the needs of Jamaica,” says Turpin. 

For the first two months the Jamaican students are in the classroom, learning the Truck and Transport Mechanic trade. They then go out into the work force for four months to gain experience, and of course make some money. After that, they return to school for the final two months to obtain their college certification. Opportunities to obtain intra-provincial certification (i.e. Red Seal) may then be possible. 

While this group of students is made up of people who have worked in Jamaica for a number of years in various industries and positions, Turpin says once the students graduate, they have the opportunity to then work in Canada. 

“Canada offers a post-graduate work permit. If a student attends a Canadian post-secondary institution for a minimum of eight months, they can apply and extend their time in Canada. The Jamaican liaison will then work with the Department of Immigration and Industry Canada to place the graduates in the work force. If there is a shortage of workers with a particular company, that employer can then have the person work for them for a period of time. That Jamaican individual may even have the option of then applying to the immigration process and if successful be able to continue to work and make a living in Canada.” 

The Jamaican students were well prepped to experience the culture – and the climate – of Newfoundland and Labrador. Many of them Googled Stephenville from home, curious about what to expect from the quaint, but cold town. Student Paul Eallimore sees this as a great opportunity. 

“It means a new life and new start for me. I am a family man. I am an ambassador for Jamaica, representing this first group and they can learn from our experiences and follow suit. It’s nice here – the people are friendly. It is a bit cold, but I feel very comfortable here. I’m very impressed,” he said. 

The Jamaican Liaison Service representative also attended the group’s orientation with the 15 newest Stephenville residents. Donna Adams is the Chief Liaison Officer who’s responsible for making their transition from Jamaica to Newfoundland an easy one. 

“They are adding value to what they already have. They have not had formal training, like college. This is a way to upgrade themselves with Canadian certifications and get the experiences required to obtain a better job. Ultimately, some will return home to improve production and some will work in Newfoundland (or other parts of Canada) and add to the population and bring their families to join them,” said Adams. 

Adams says it’s been quite easy to work with CNA and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to bring this opportunity together. 

“The college has done so much for the orientation. It is very heart warming. Everyone has gone out of their way to make this an easy transition for them and we really appreciate it,” Adams said. 

The chef at the Bay St. George campus has even offered to cook authentic Jamaican dishes and have all spices and other ingredients shipped in from St. John’s. However, the Jamaican students are just as excited to try traditional Newfoundland dishes. In fact, if you look closely at both islands, the cultures and people are quite similar. 

“The history of Newfoundland and Jamaica go way back. We have moved on now from rum and cod fish to labour,” said Adams. 

* Colleen Connors  is a Public Relations Specialist with the College of the North Atlantic.

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