Toronto

Job fair specifically for refugees gives hope to those having trouble finding work

For months, Mariam Ajuya handed out her resume to employers, only to be told that she didn’t have any Canadian experience. The constant denial was frustrating until she attended Toronto’s first refugee job fair at Metro Hall. 

Many newcomers receive multiple offers at Thursday's event at Toronto's Metro Hall

Mariam Ajuya received several job offers at Thursday's refugee job fair at Metro Hall. (Grant Linton/CBC )

For months, Mariam Ajuya handed out her resume to employers, only to be told that she didn't have any Canadian experience. The constant denial was frustrating until she attended Toronto's first refugee job fair Thursday at Metro Hall. 

"I have a few job offers now," said Ajuya, who fled Nigeria with her two children in 2016.

"This event today gave me the opportunity to meet with the employer one-on-one and make that connection." 

Ajuya, like many other refugees, found that her foreign experience and credentials in accounting didn't translate well in the Canadian job market. So she connected with ACCES Employment and several other organizations to get some training before attending Thursday's job fair. 

The fair, dubbed First-of-its-Kind Refugee Hiring Event, was put on by Starbucks Canada, together with the TENT Partnership for Refugees. 

"We've done a lot of work with them and the employers today have recognized that," said Anita Carroll, a vice president at ACCES who also helped set up the event. 

Nearly 150 newcomers with various backgrounds came to the fair. They got to sit down with 15 different prospective employers, including Ikea, Starbucks and FedEx. All of the companies were chosen because they expressed an interest in hiring refugees and between them, have about 100 positions that need to be filled immediately. 

The hope is to bring similar refugee job fairs to cities across Canada.

For Senator Ratna Omidvar, who fled Iran decades ago, helping refugees navigate the system has always been near and dear to her heart. 

Nearly 150 refugees attended the job fair where 15 different employers were offering 100 positions that need to be filled in the GTA immediately. (Grant Linton/CBC )

"Refugees are resilient," said Omidvar. "Getting ready for the Canadian job market with all of its written and unwritten rules is stressful … but getting the first job is the first stepping stone to success."

The response has been incredible, says Carroll. She expects all the positions will be filled after many of the attendees move on to the second round of interviews. 

"We already have a wait list [of employers], which has led us to plan another event ... So several employers are waiting for the next date," said Carroll. 

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