WES Ambassador Flavia Torres was born in Venezuela but found career success as an immigrant in Canada. Now, she wants to share her story with other skilled immigrants.
Her journey did not end when her family settled in Toronto, however; that was just the start of the road that would lead to a great job and personal fulfillment.
Learn the steps she took to continue her education, return to work, and ultimately become a successful certified professional in Canada.
In July 2012, I arrived in Canada with my husband and two small children. My husband found a job in the Greater Toronto Area, so that is where our family decided to live.
At the time, I was unemployed. Back in Venezuela, I had spent over five years as an industrial engineer in health and safety. Once we settled in Toronto, I was ready to go back to work. But I needed to figure out how my qualifications could help me find an equivalent career path in Canada. I knew that I would need to better understand the local employment landscape before I could join the labor market myself.
I am glad that I did, because it turned out that there were several steps ahead of me before I could fulfill my dreams.
Going Back to School
I started with Engineering Connections, a bridging program designed for internationally trained engineers. The program included a section on improving one’s English skills; in particular, it focused on the vocabulary that professional engineers need. I pursued a certificate in occupational health and safety online through Seneca College. While working to complete my studies, I was also the full-time caretaker for my children: a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old.
There are so many job postings in Canada; I was never worried about finding work. But maybe I should have been more concerned. While we are still in our home countries, skilled immigrants like me look at the large number of opportunities in North America and begin to think jobs are just waiting for us. I did not realize that there are many people in Canada—newcomers included—who are qualified for the same job. I did not consider the fact that I would need to compete with them.
Thankfully, going back to school in Canada gave me a competitive edge. While I completed my online certificate program, I also had time to acclimate to the country a bit more. Feeling more secure in my community and understanding local customs both contributed to my comfort and confidence during my job search.
Obtaining a Credential Evaluation
Now the pieces were coming together. With my my continued education, my past work experience, and my growing knowledge of local customs, I was able to go back to work just six months after we settled in Toronto! In November 2013, I had one month left of my certificate program to complete—but my goal was within sight.
One important piece of the puzzle was still missing, however. I wanted my past experience to count toward my future career potential. I also wanted to secure an appropriate starting salary when I went back to work. This is why I chose to get evaluations for the degrees that I had already earned in Venezuela. I did some research to find a credible evaluation agency and selected WES.
This process involved getting back in touch with my school, so that they could send the necessary paperwork to WES. I still had family back in Venezuela; fortunately, they were willing to help me collect my paperwork and get it translated. My brother even went to my former university to pick up my documents in a sealed envelope!
By May 2014, WES had evaluated all of my previous credentials. They sent me a verified credential evaluation report.
I included my equivalency report when I applied to become a Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP). Before I could truly earn those credentials, however, I needed to complete six months of relevant work experience. Six months can feel like a long wait when you are on the road to your goals, but it’s also a short amount of time when you think about your total journey. I understood that this was a necessary part of the process to become a certified safety professional in Canada. When my six months were complete, it was worth it to finally become a CRSP!
In May 2016, my career got even better. I secured a job at one of the Top 100 companies in Canada. My credential evaluation gave my employer the confidence to hire me as the company’s manager of health, safety, and environment (HSE). I know that other candidates had more manufacturing experience or a stronger background in HSE. However, my certification and experience positioned me above the competition and helped me to succeed.
At the time, I was excited for the opportunity to learn and grow in my field. Today, I am proud to work with talented professionals who consider me their equal.
I have now been living in Canada for six years. My husband and I both have great jobs in our respective fields. We bought a house, and our children are happy with their life in Toronto. I am at a point where I can enjoy the work I have put in to get here. Of course, I still want to progress further in my career. But I understand that it is important to take a moment to enjoy my achievements.
For now, it fills me with pride to share my story and help other skilled immigrants find career success in Canada.
What I Have Learned from My Canadian Career Journey
Here is what I have learned: It takes more than good luck to land a dream job.
It requires discipline, hard work, vision, strategy, and clear goals. Sometimes it is a necessity to work a “survival job” to help you pay the bills. It’s possible that you will temporarily feel disconnected from your past work experience or the degrees you have already earned. Getting back on the right track often takes time, money, planning, and patience. It will definitely require determination and imagination to build the road from your past to your future.
But no matter what it takes, make sure to stay on the path toward your dreams. I was able to accomplish my goals, and I know that you can, too!
Now, the journey continues. I cannot wait to find out what’s next.
What’s Next? Watch the Webinar!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).