Working Skills Centre
Honey Crossley, Executive Director
Charitable number: 10822-1946 RR0001
About this organization
Since 1978, Working Skills Centre (WSC) has empowered over 50,000 immigrants, primarily women, providing skills training and orientation to Canada, enabling them to obtain employment in their career sectors and become self-sufficient. The agency adheres to the following mission statement: Working Skills Centre (WSC) is an innovative, community-based, non-profit, charitable organization that empowers immigrants, primarily women. Our purpose is to prepare our clients to fully participate in Canadian society by providing education, work experience, and settlement services that ultimately lead to employment. Programs include settlement services, the Academy of Computer & Employment Skills (A.C.E.S.), over 50 individual courses to help upgrade skills, and a host of bridge-to-work initiatives including World Service Cargo – a Practice Firm providing Canadian work experience for recent immigrants. Together with Learning Enrichment Foundation and Mothercraft, WSC has formed an associate working group to represent the Charitable Career Colleges (CCC) sector. Currently there are three charitable organizations hosting college level programs combined with social service and settlement programs. The CCC is working with other agencies to increase this number. Our programs and services for immigrants are made possible through the support of our sponsors and partners and revenue from our community-based business services.
History of Organization
Working Skills Centre (WSC) is a charitable organization, established in 1978 and incorporated on May 1, 1980. WSC is a leader in developing services needed by immigrants, especially women. Early on the agency recognized the need to provide a continuum of service to newcomers. In 1982, WSC published the first ESL/Life Skills Job Related Manual and in 1986 WSC developed software: ESL for Immigrant Women. WSC has continued to combine computer literacy with language and Canadian orientation curriculum, developing components of training programs which ensure readiness not only in technical skills but also in understanding the Canadian workplace. In 2008 WSC celebrated 30 years of serving over 50,000 Toronto residents with programs in a culturally sensitive learning environment that ensures client empowerment. WSC operates two businesses: WSC Staffing Services and WSC Skills Training. Community partnerships are equally important to agency capacity and service availability for clients. WSC works with organizations to ensure the support services are in place so that graduates are successful in obtaining employment. The Charitable Career College sector uses shared marketing opportunities to increase the possibility of low-income individuals obtaining a college degree together with needed social services from a multi-service agency.
Accolades and Accomplishments
At the 30th Anniversary Gala, held October 28, 2008, WSC was recognized by politicians, corporate leaders, employers and program graduates as an important change agent for newcomers in Toronto. WSC is often recognized as a spokesperson for small, non-profit agencies. Recently the Executive Director was a member of the External Reference Group on Program Design for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and currently the Executive Director is a representative of non-CIC funded settlement agencies on the Toronto Downtown West Local Immigration Planning project. WSC was honoured to be the recipient of Vital Ideas funding in 2009. WSC’s focus is to empower immigrants to create their own futures. Advocacy work is limited by time and financial resources, although WSC is active on numerous umbrella groups that advocate on behalf of the sector, for example: Social Planning Toronto, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, Ontario Association of Women’s Centres, and the Toronto Workforce Innovation Group. WSC staff act as advocates for clients in their day-to-day interactions. The work proposed herein is a continuation of the collaborative effort started in 2009 to ensure that individuals from high risk communities have access to, and knowledge of, appropriate training programs and bridge-to-work supports.
Working Skills Centre (WSC) provides a continuum of services, some in partnership with other community agencies, to empower immigrants to move from arrival to employment along the Track to Employment TM. The services are depicted as stations on the cover page of the WSC web site (http://www.workingskillscentre.com). Programs include: Settlement Services: • information and referral, • solution-focused counselling • orientation to Canada • employment counselling for internationally trained individuals Language Instruction: • ESL and equivalent programs • Business English • Workplace Communication • Sector-specific terminology Skills Training: • Over 50 individual certificate courses available to individual to enhance their job opportunities • The Academy of Computer & Employment Skills, A.C.E.S., offers 5 approved Diploma programs • Career Packages, combinations of various courses, designed to assist individuals to achieve their career goals Canadian Work Experience: • World Service Cargo – a Practice Firm is a simulated business offering work experience in seven sectors: SAP, IT, Finance, Administration, Marketing & Sales, Supply Chain, and HR • WSC arranges work placements and internships for graduates from Diploma programs • Job Search is a required part of all programs Charitable Career Colleges (CCC): The Vital Ideas 2009 grant from the Toronto Community Foundation helped create a Charitable Career Colleges (CCC) sector bringing together three charitable non-profit colleges (Learning Enrichment Foundation, WSC and Mothercraft). By developing a comprehensive marketing strategy, the CCC is informing communities about the unique benefits and extremely successful outcomes of their Diploma programs. WSC, LEF and Mothercraft have all provided skills training for more than 35 years.
When provincial legislation was introduced in 2005, agencies submitted applications to be registered as private career colleges in order to continue to provide programs to their specialized populations. The magic here is to create awareness of these unique programs that provide a post-secondary educational opportunity simultaneously with settlement and social service supports needed by individuals. In 2008, shortly after receiving the career college licence, Working Skills Centre (WSC) created the WSC Scholarship and Bursary Fund. The first fund raising event to populate the fund was WSC’s 30th Anniversary Gala which raised $25,000 from corporate and individual sponsors. Over the next two years 30 immigrant women who would otherwise not have been able to attend the approved vocational programs were granted bursaries ranging from $800 - $1,200 to supplement tuition fees. WSC does not believe that individuals, especially women who are single mothers and especially newcomers, should go into debt to improve their career opportunities by obtaining an advanced degree. Each year WSC hosts an annual fund raising drive in the Spring, participating in the Achilles St. Patrick’s Day walk-a-thon, raising approximately $8,500. This amount is not sufficient to meet the need and corporate donations and grants are therefore being sought as a means to keep the fund at an adequate level. The Charitable Career Colleges’ Bursary Program will be an extension of the WSC Bursary Fund, enabling low income individuals to attend programs at any one of the three institutions that meet the CCC criteria and are not eligible for OSAP or other sources of funding.
To date women receiving a Bursary are able to complete Diploma programs and many are now gainfully employed. In better economic times the hiring rate within 3-4 months of completing a training program is above 75%, however the current job market is very competitive. We expect this to change as the economy improves. The combination of multi-service support with the rigorous academic requirements of a career college ensure that individuals who graduate are well prepared for the workplace, both technically and in terms of personal strengths. As low income individuals achieve academically, they develop confidence and build self-esteem. These are necessary social requirements to succeed in the workplace. Once working the community-at-large benefits from their new buying power.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
“Between 1991 and 2006, the proportion of university-educated recent immigrants working at jobs with low educational requirements grew from 22% to 28% for men and from 36% to 44% for women…. The earnings gap between recent immigrants and Canadian-born workers has widened significantly over 25 years.” (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2009) The Charitable Career College sector is uses an effective communication and marketing strategy to enhance the likelihood of unemployed individuals, especially immigrants, attending programs and receiving the Diploma they need to ensure they become employed in careers of their choice. As they become employed and self-sufficient, graduates leave social service subsidies behind improving personal self-worth. At the same time the Toronto’s economy becomes more viable.
I have a bachelor’s degree from University in Poland and over 5 years experience as an Accounts Receivable Clerk. I loved my job; however my husband decided to immigrate to Canada. After arriving in Toronto, he found a job as a driver quickly, but unfortunately I did not receive any reply to the resumes I sent to employers. I did not have either a Canadian Diploma or Canadian work experience. Searching the internet for the place where I could upgrade my skills and gain diploma was hard because when I found a course I liked, I couldn’t afford the price. Finally, I found the WSC website. I knew that it was a perfect place for me. It was extremely important to me to learn the English terminology for accounting procedures. In addition to bookkeeping principles and the most popular accounting software used in Canada, I gained advanced skill in Word and Excel that I required. But at WSC you are trained on more than software. I had a chance to study Business English which is really a “must have” skill for the Canadian workplace. While at WSC, I attended many workshops focused on job searching, resume and cover letter building and lastly, there was reception training, which is also absolutely necessary for the Canadian workplace - no matter where you work you just have to know certain things. I finished the program with the confidence I needed to get a job in my field. Iwona T., Computerized Accounting Diploma, 2008; Iwona works at Fruitrade International as an Accounting Clerk
Activities a donation will support
A grant to the Charitable Career Colleges’ Bursary Program will ensure that there are funds available for individuals who want to take a college course housed at a charitable organization but do not have sufficient personal financial resources to pay the full tuition. While the settlement and support services are free at each of these agencies, the academic program must meet specific financial obligations and respect the tuition fees posted on the MTCU, Private Career College’s web site. No one seeking post secondary or Canadian education should be denied this service because of limited financial backing. Donors are eligible to receive charitable receipts.
The WSC Bursary Fund (and by extension the CCC Bursary Program) is an example a small amount of money making a significant difference in the lives of individuals, families, and the community. Tuition for a college course, even at those which are initiatives of a charitable organization, ranges from $2,500-$7,500. At WSC the average Bursary awarded is $1,000 and a matching amount of the tuition fees is waived to ensure individuals can move forward in their chosen fields. In addition to financial assistance, donors are encouraged to become involved as mentors, leading conversation circles, providing career advice, conducting mock interviews and sometimes assisting the agency with curriculum development.