Building Bridges back into Engineering

Isabel is from Columbia and has been in Canada for the past ten years. In Columbia, she was working as a Civil/Materials engineer for ten years. She came to Canada looking for a more peaceful future.

When she first arrived, Isabel visited many immigrant associations, such as Bredin Centre for Learning and Directions for Immigrants, which helped her to develop a plan for her job search. She learned more about the importance of soft skills vs. hard skills. At the time, her English wasn’t very good and spent about 1 years working on her communications skills. Days were spent attending job search workshops, reading about job search strategies, as well as other self-development areas.

In total she spent 100 hours working on her resume alone, but once she made those changes, she started to see more responses to her job application. Before making those changes, she would send out many resumes and get no responses at all. But after making the changes, out of 20 resumes, she received 6 calls for interviews. At the time, she also took Toast Masters and Accent Reduction courses to help develop her soft skills. One thing she learned is that though her accent most likely will never change, she could help others to better understand her accent.

During that time, she struggled with lack of opportunity in the market, and wasn’t able to find a job in her field. She took up a sales role at Sears for a few months which helped develop her soft skills. After that position, she took on a cement testing position that required a lot of heavy lifting and labour work. This job was physically and emotionally draining, and she felt discouraged, as if she was going 2 steps back instead of forward. Isabel eventually had to leave the job as it started taking a toll on her body. But even though that position wasn’t quite what she was doing before, it helped her to gain some transferrable skills to come closer to where she wanted to be.

Since moving to Canada, Isabel had always wanted to go back into her engineering career, so Isabel began to look into APEGA and gathered all the documents required to begin her licensing process. After receiving the evaluations back from APEGA, her experience had been recognized, but she was required to take an additional two exams to get her provisional license. After her cement testing position, and receiving her assessments from APEGA, she landed her first engineering job in 2011. In October 2013, she received her PEng after working one year at Lafarge.

If she were to give some advice to new immigrants looking to re-establish their careers in Canada, she would tell them: “Spend lots of time in the job preparation stage: first with the resume and soft skills, then the interview skills as well. Ensure that your resume and business cards look professional, and be prepared! Believe in yourself and have the confidence that you can do it!”