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Q. I’ve just moved to B.C. and am wondering what training is available to build my skills in English and in the workplace?

A: When most immigrants come to Canada, they find it necessary to upgrade their skills with some form of education.

Many immigrants need to work on their English language skills and Canada subsidizes these programs. In Canada, these programs are referred to as LINC or Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada. In British Columbia, they are called ELSA, or English Language Services for Adults. Basic free English courses are available through immigrant settlement agencies.

Consider also taking part-time or full-time courses to upgrade any professional credentials you may have acquired in your home country.

In Canada, participation rates in adult education training programs vary widely, but what is apparent is that many adults participate in workforce training if it is the employer sponsors it (sometimes this means the company pays for up to 100 per cent of the courses). It is also apparent that larger companies (100+ employees with human resources departments) offer more training and have a higher percentage of employees involved than smaller companies without HR departments or company-sponsored training programs.

While it is possible to find employers to fund training and education, it is more likely that you may have to self-finance your education for longer term programs. Therefore, if you are coming to Canada, be prepared to have to fund some of the training required using your own sources.

Lastly, getting further education is made more convenient through evening and online education. A word of advice: do your due diligence before enrolling in a private college as there have been cases of some of them vanishing overnight, leaving students stranded.  Here is a link to some of the colleges, schools and universities in Canada, including online schools: www.cicic.ca/664/Directory-of-Universities-Colleges-and-Schools-in-Canada.canada.


Q: I’ve just moved to Toronto from Beijing and am getting ready to enter university. Can you tell me what I need to know as a newcomer applying for a student loan?

The purpose of the Canada Student Loan and provincial student loan assistance programs are to assist students who might otherwise not be able to attend school full time because of a lack of financial resources.

Generally, funds are granted only when the student has exhausted other sources of financing, such as parents, employment or other sources, and still has insufficient funds to meet the estimated costs of post-secondary education. Normally, the funds provided under these programs are disbursed through a combination of the Canada Student Loan and the provincial student assistance program.

Canada Student Loans generally meet about 60 per cent of the student’s need during the study period, with the maximum Canada Student Loan assistance available for full-time students currently set at about $165 for each week of study period. It is assumed that provincial funding and private resources will make up the balance required.

The exact amount you can borrow will depend on your individual needs and on such expenses as tuition, school fees, textbooks, supplies, incidentals, local transportation to school and childcare expenses during school.

Interest on the student loan is paid by the federal or provincial government for as long as the student is registered as a full-time student, and usually for six months after the schooling is complete. Under some circumstances, students may apply to delay paying interest for up to 30 months after leaving school. Usually, however, the student must begin repaying the loan, with interest, after six months of leaving or quitting school. A portion of that interest payment is tax deductible. Generally, interest paid by the government on the student’s behalf during four years of education will amount to about $4,000 on a $25,000 student loan.

Applications for loans are available from the financial aid offices at most colleges and universities, as well as from the admissions offices. In most instances, student loans are available to Canadian citizens or permanent residents (landed immigrants) enrolled in full-time studies.


Q: My son is still in high school, but I’ve been wondering what the options are for studying further, after he finishes?

A: After graduating from high school, students can pursue their studies through a variety of post-secondary institutions.

Formal vocational or career training prepares students for a skilled trade, ranging from a few months to several years, including such courses as food services, hair dressing, computer technology, practical nursing, car mechanics and architectural drafting. Before obtaining a licence to practise some trades, you may need to complete formal training followed by a term of apprenticeship, which is controlled provincially.

Community colleges offer one- to three-year diploma or certificate programs in technical or academic subjects, including first- and second-year arts and science programs, and “market-ready” career programs. These institutions have various names but typically include the words college or institute, which may focus on anything from art and technology to computer programming.

Some colleges offer university transfer courses. Make sure your college courses are transferable, if this is your goal. Many students choose to attend college first for a number of reasons, such as smaller class sizes, a smaller campus that is often closer to home and cheaper tuition.

Universities offer multi-year degree and post-degree programs in arts, sciences, business and other academic and professional fields.

Students earn “credits” for all school courses successfully completed, with each program requiring a set number of credits. It is a good idea for you and your child to discuss with a school counsellor what courses would work best for you and how much work (hours outside the classroom) will be required to successfully complete the courses.

Here are a few more links to more information:

Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada: www.aucc.ca

Association of Canadian Community Colleges: www.accc.ca

National Association of Career Colleges: www.nacc.ca

Q. I’m from Hong Kong originally and preparing to apply for university at McGill in Montreal. What can you tell me about getting scholarships?

A: An abundance of resources are available for students wishing to apply for scholarships at universities across Canada. Typically, these resources can be found at the registration offices of most universities or at their career centres. Also, resources should be available at high school guidance counsellor offices and public libraries.

In terms of finding the scholarship that you will have the most chance receiving, you need to be aware of the various types of scholarships out there. Two main types are: (1) those based upon financial need and (2) those based upon academic scholarship and other strengths. As well, most post-secondary institutes offer scholarships for students with disabilities.