Good English language skills are essential for successful integration
English is the language of the workplace
You are expected to find your own job. Manitoba offers programs and services – before and after you arrive – to help you make a personal action plan to empower you to succeed.
You will need to learn:
- where to look for job openings
- how to assess whether you have the right skills and education to compete for a particular job
- how to apply for a job
English is needed to participate in – and get the benefits of – Manitoba’s job-finding and employment-readiness programs
Your English skills must be good enough to:
- participate in pre and post-arrival programs and services
- understand occupational licensing criteria and processes
- be successful in face-to-face job interviews where you must describe your competencies
- write a standard (Canadian style) resumé and cover letter in English to highlight your past education and work experience
- write exams or tests to prove you have the English proficiency required to do the job (where language requirements exist, such as is the case with licensed professions)
Your English skills will be formally measured
In Manitoba, IELTS (or CELPIP) is used to measure the language proficiency of international clients. The MPNP recommends that skilled workers score at least 4 on IELTS (General) to apply. (Priority applicants must have IELTS 5 or higher.)
After you arrive, the language schools the government provides for new immigrants use Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) to describe measure your skill levels and describe communication competencies. (Citizenship and Immigration Canada has identified CLB 4 as the language assessment description that best fits the current citizenship regulations.)
Employers do not ask job applicants for CLB levels, but the opportunities open to you will depend on – and are limited by – your level of English communication skills.*
At CLB 1 – 3, menial jobs are available to you – office cleaner with a supervisor who speaks the same first language as you, or a dishwasher or kitchen helper with someone on staff who speaks your first language. You may be able to get a job cleaning rooms at a hotel, or working at a bakery.
At CLB 4, you may get a job such as a child care assistant or home care worker (working with the elderly) or as a hospital cleaner. At CLB 5, jobs that may be open to you include counter help in a fast food restaurant, cashier, food server or assembly-line manufacturing. You need about CLB 6 to work in a retail position or as a security guard or bus driver.
At CLB 7, child care educator and health care aide positions may be available to you. At CLB 8, you should be able to compete for most professional jobs.
* The CLB levels for jobs summary is for illustration only and does not represent industry standards or take into account specific job screening criteria.
Once you have a job in Manitoba, you are expected to perform all the job duties using English
You need to understand the workplace health and safety guidelines, speak with colleagues, customers and supervisors, participate in meetings, and write reports and memos. Each of these tasks requires good English skills and an understanding of the communication conventions used in your specific workplace.
Navigating nuances necessary to carve career niche
Often your technical skills will get you a job. However, good soft skills are needed to keep the job.
Soft skills are inter-personal workplace skills such as getting along with others, fostering good relationships, “fitting in” and making people comfortable. Culturally appropriate English language usage will help you demonstrate good soft skills. The language used to persuade, disagree, interrupt and join in small talk, for example, can come across as angry, rude or awkward if you do not know English well. Your tone alone may convey an unintended message. There are inferred meanings or nuances in English conversations that need to be understood as well.
For many immigrant workers, feedback from supervisors may be not clear. Canadian managers can be seen as politically correct, and often try “to sandwich” negative comments between positive ones. They try to soften the remarks and provide criticism in an indirect polite way so if your English isn’t good you may miss the point of the conversation.
Communication is very complex and only by being immersed in the local language and culture can one really begin to become aware of and understand all the important nuances.
More reasons to improve your English before – and after – you move to Manitoba
- You have to have good observation skills to “pick up” the way people interact at various workplaces.
- You need English skills to obtain services (community, government and business services).
- The better your English language skills are, the faster you will be able to settle, to establish yourself in the labour market and your family in the community.
- You need English language skills to register your children in school and to support them in their education.
- Your interactions with public and private services in person, on the phone or on line will be in English. English is used at stores, at banks, on the bus, in health care facilities, at the library, with a real estate agent, lawyer, counsellor or consultant, etc.
- English communication skills are needed to engage socially with others and participate in community activities.
- Neighbours, other newcomers, classmates, and colleagues are all eager to support you in settling and good English skills will ease your transition.
- Lifelong learning is an import Canadian value and your strong English skills makes joining sports, recreation and leisure activities or classes easier and will help you make new friends, as well as share your passions and hobbies with others.
- You need English language skills to participate in civic processes, exercise your rights and fulfil you responsibilities under the Canadian laws, the roles of police and the justice system.
- Basic responsibilities, such as insuring your car and paying taxes require English language skills to fully understand the system.
- Through English media (TV, radio, newspapers, Internet) you can understand currents issues in the city, province and country. You can become involved in politics, community affairs and volunteerism.
Advice to Manitoba-destined immigrants
Assess your English competency by taking an IELTS test before you apply to the MPNP.
- Many people assume that they will be able to “get by” with the English they have or that they will “pick it up” quickly and easily.
- Some people overestimate their English abilities or underestimate the length of time and effort it takes to become communicative in English. It takes approximately 500 hours of full-time study to improve by one Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level.
- Some people do not realize how hard it can be to understand English speakers who have different dialects, speaking speeds, intonation patterns and word choices.
- Be realistic in your self assessment. Look at the CLB 8 competencies. These are the skills you will need to get a professional position in Manitoba.