Having worked nine years in the banking industry in the Philippines and several more years in a family-run flower supply business in Manila, Gina Domingo immigrated to Canada with her husband and children last June.
A month after arriving in Toronto, she landed a job at a Roots warehouse as an order picker and then took a job at Starbucks as a barista. While she was working at Starbucks, she found out about a new program offered by CIBC and the YMCA of Greater Toronto to help newcomers to Canada prepare for jobs in the Canadian financial services sector.
“When I first came here to Canada, there were fears about giving up what we had back home, but the training program gave us the tools to be more effective and probably more marketable,” said Domingo.
The six-week job readiness program, CIBC Connection to Employment, was free for newcomers with a background in the financial services sector. More than 665 candidates applied for the program. That number was narrowed down to 44 who met the English-language requirements.
“We saw it as both a business opportunity and a talent acquisition opportunity,” said Sharon Wingfelder, vice-president of HR, resourcing, at CIBC. “We’re always looking for creative channels to find great talent.”
In the end, 24 candidates were chosen with a wide range of experiences, from entry-level customer service to senior-level positions, and from those who had just arrived in Canada to those who had been here for several years.
Over six weeks, participants learned how to put together a resumé, prepare for an interview and how to conduct themselves during an interview. They also learned about the culture of the financial services industry and bank-specific information relevant to Canada.
“Even though I had worked for a bank back home, the situation now is different, in terms of regulations in the bank,” said Domingo.
But even more than the bank-specific training, it was the soft skills such as teamwork, conflict resolution and problem solving that Domingo found most helpful.
“That is most likely to help us out, being new in the country. You can apply it in any industry that you go to,” she said.
Those are also the skills found most useful by Felix Quartey, who has worked as a supervisor in the financial services industry in Ghana and Australia, where he also taught finance and accounting.
“Those are the skills I believe I will carry with me throughout my career,” said Quartey, who has been in Canada for five months. He said the opportunity to apply for jobs at CIBC after the program ended was a bonus.
So far CIBC has hired 15 of the participants for a wide range of positions, including commercial banking, retail banking, telephone banking and operations, and six more are in the pipeline, said Wingfelder. RBC also hired one of the participants.
Domingo has accepted a position as a customer service representative at a CIBC branch and Quartey has accepted a position as a CIBC loan operations officer.
With so many more people showing an interest in the program than could be accommodated, CIBC and the YMCA decided to offer a career fair and expo aimed at newcomers.
“There was a gap that was there and we really felt compelled to do something for these individuals,” said Wingfelder.
More than 200 people attended the two-hour event, which included a one-hour session on interview and resumé writing skills, how to market yourself for different jobs and how to approach people. Afterward, attendees could check out different booths with relevant resources for newcomers, including language training.
CIBC also accumulated 20 leads for new hires from the event, said Wingfelder.
CIBC and the YMCA are discussing running another six-week program and looking at ways to expand, she said. These plans pleased Quartey who would like other newcomers to have the same opportunity to enter the Canadian job market as he did.
“There are a lot of newcomers in this country who are really looking for such opportunities — there just aren’t that many opportunities available for newcomers. It’s an excellent innovation on the part of CIBC and YMCA. I really would recommend this program to any newcomers who are wanting to access the Canadian workplace,” said Quartey.