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Chona Panes arrived in Canada from the Philippines just seven months ago.

Making experience count for new Canadians

Calgary, AB — SAIT Polytechnic has teamed up with the Centre for Newcomers to help immigrants with backgrounds in accounting bridge the gap between the career they left behind in their home country, and their new life built in Canada.

The Business Communication for Accountants (BCA) program is the only one of its kind in Alberta — offering language, computer and job readiness training, work experience, and 12 weeks of accounting courses through SAIT.

Rahrel Gul, who moved to Canada from Pakistan with his wife and three children last March, has high expectations for what the program will do for his career.

"It will bridge my international experience to a Canadian market," says Gul, who worked as an accountant in Pakistan. "The SAIT classes will help, especially the taxation course. Every country has its own taxation system that you must learn as an accountant."

Debra Grab, Earned Revenue Coordinator in the School of Business says the three intermediate accounting courses, taught onsite at the Centre for Newcomers, are recognized by the Certified General Accountants association, and can be used towards the completion of an accounting certificate, diploma or degree.

"These are not beginner courses," says Grab. "The people in the program are highly educated — many have master's degrees, or five and 10 years of experience as accountants."

In order to qualify for the program, which is subsidized by the government through the Centre for Newcomers, applicants have to meet certain language and educational requirements, and pass a selection exam provided by SAIT's School of Business.

Starting over

Beginning a new life in a new country can be difficult, especially when the professional credentials that were so hard earned in one's homeland are no longer relevant.

Estelita Novakovic, Communications Coordinator at the Centre for Newcomers, says many skilled immigrants find work in areas unrelated to their previous experience. The BCA program helps connect immigrants with the professions they left behind in their homelands.

"They can land in the field they were trained for," says Novakovic. "They get the education and work experience, so they can make use of their expertise and avoid jobs that aren't suited to their skills."

New Canadians enrolled in Business Communications for Accountants have full access to the SAIT Library and Wellness Centre.Chona Panes arrived in Canada from the Philippines just seven months ago. She left Mindanao Island to escape increasingly dangerous living conditions.

While Canada has provided a more peaceful and orderly life for her and her family, she was frustrated her master's degree and 15 years of experience didn't get her as far here as it did in her home country.

Now, Panes looks forward to the work experience portion of the BCA program and hopes to secure a permanent position after her work term.

"I would like to get placement at Suncor, or the City of Calgary, or even Alberta Central Credit Union in a better position than I have there now," she says.

Meeting industry demands

Faisal Ali, Senior Business Development Manager in Corporate Training, says the BCA program is part of Corporate Training's mandate to help meet market-labour demands by educating new Canadians for the workplace.

"A program like this ensures new Canadians with qualifications are given an opportunity to gain accreditation through specialized programs. This helps new Canadians, SAIT, and the industry," says Ali.

About SAIT Polytechnic

SAIT Polytechnic is one of Canada's most exciting destinations for post-secondary education, offering more than 100 career programs and over 1,000 part-time courses (including online and distance) that position people for success in technology, trades and business. A leader in innovation, SAIT also collaborates with industry on applied research and delivers corporate training worldwide. SAIT has been named one of Alberta's Top 60 Employers for 2013 and the 2013 Best Alberta Workplace for Training and Development. 

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