by Stacy Dunn
For the first time in Career Bridges’ 45-plus-year history, the career planning service integrated Canadian citizens, temporary work permit holders, and permanent residents into one cohort. Most participants were from Ukraine, which has been devastated by war since February 2022.
Career Bridges and Immigrant and Refugee Services Association PEI (IRSA PEI) partnered on this idea last year, and SkillsPEI agreed to support this cohort. The 12-week program is designed to help those looking to re-enter the workforce, make a career change, or just find a helping hand.
During the recent closing ceremony of this Career Bridges cohort, Program Coordinator Bruce Cluney marvelled at the story of one participant, Sofia Beztsinna.
“It’s amazing how so much work has gone into planning this group,” he says. “The night before the program was to start, Sofia was stuck at the airport in Toronto. She called Lara Petruk (IRSA Settlement Worker) who called me to say she had to sleep overnight at the airport. I thought it was not right for a 19-year-old traveling alone to sleep at the airport, so I found the Passenger’s Bill of Rights online, and sent it to the case worker to send to Sofia. She took the Bill of Rights to a counter at the Toronto airport to advocate for herself and she was given a hotel room for the night.”
She landed on PEI the next day, and Career Bridges staff processed her paperwork to enroll her in Career Bridges. “Sofia came in after the two-day ordeal with a smile on her face.
“I am privileged and blessed to have been with her and the rest of the participants in the program as they go on their journey,” says Bruce. “It’s not lost on me the challenges you have experienced, from learning a new language, navigating a new city, and taking this program while being distracted by the news from home.
“I applaud you for how well you got along in Career Bridges,” he says, noting Sofia was unable to attend the ceremony because she was working. “Employers at your job placements had great things to say about you. I congratulate those who found jobs right away and I am encouraged that those who are still looking for work will find something soon.”
Kate Kaidanova started to work as a housekeeper in Canada in September and is now employed as an Office Manager. “I am grateful to the staff at Career Bridges. I learned a lot about myself and Canada. I used eForcePEI to improve my computer and accounting skills. “My employer Upstreet Craft Brewing has agreed to apply to the Atlantic Immigration Program on my behalf and I am excited by this company. Amazing people work here.”
Elina Lialiuk’s work history in Ukraine includes being a Technical Writer. “The program provides us with a lot of information on how to stand out and prepare a resumé that appeals to Canadian employers.”
Elina is grateful Career Bridges included Ukrainians coming to Canada under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization Emergency Travel program as her country was invaded by Russia.
“Career Bridges boosted my self-confidence and showed me how not to give up on my job search. I am grateful to the staff for their dedication to us and I would recommend this program to anyone.”
Since arriving in PEI, Elina has volunteered as President of the PEI Ukrainian Society and started volunteering with IRSA PEI with the EAL tutoring program. Together with other PEI Ukrainian community activists, Elina regularly organizes and participates in different community events to raise awareness of Ukraine’s traditions and culture and also serves as a community spokesperson.
Last year, she initiated the process of creating the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) branch on PEI, and this year, the branch was successfully established. Elina was elected President of the UCC-PEI Branch.
She says the one big difference between Canada and Ukraine is the practice of doing informational interviews. “Before coming to Canada, I never heard of informational interviews. It’s about learning more about a company, learning about working in a certain field and deciding if you want to pursue that company or field of work.
“You also get acquainted with employers or employees who may provide you with other connections. It’s a great way to build your professional network.”
Andrii (Andrew) Zaichuk says he got some useful knowledge from the program which he is thankful for. “I discovered I like working with people and helping them. My six-week job placement with the Habitat for Humanity Restore has now turned into a full-time job.”
Facilitator Cathy Montgomery says it was a wonderful opportunity to be with the participants. “I am privileged to have walked this road with you on PEI. I felt like a proud parent when I visited you at your job placements. No one can take away the skills and tools you learned at Career Bridges. The ball is now in your court to move forward.”
Bruce thanked SkillsPEI, IRSA PEI, and Career Development Services (CDS) for making this integrated group possible.
“This partnership is so important,” he says. “You are with Career Bridges for 12 weeks, and when you finish here, your relationship with SkillsPEI, IRSA, and CDS continues on.”
Mary Hunter, Director of SkillsPEI, was at the closing ceremony. “It is really humbling to hear the participants’ stories. The reason why SkillsPEI exists is to support programs of this nature. The team of facilitators and coordinators at Career Bridges is always pushing to continually expand and I encourage them to keep pushing. The PEI workforce is continually evolving and SkillsPEI wants to keep having discussions on how to meet the needs of our clients, whose goals are to reach their full potential.”