Working Skills Centre’s 40 Year Journey

Working Skills Centre (WSC) opened its doors in 1978 in response to the urgent needs of a large number of immigrant and refugee women from Spanish and Portuguese speaking communities. An assessment, conducted by Working Women Community Centre, found that women from these communities had difficulty finding work and integrating into Canadian society. As a result, WSC was born under their sponsorship and a program was developed with core modules in English, life skills and technical training.

The demand was sufficient to warrant a new agency and WSC was incorporated on May 1, 1980. In 1988, the Centre became a multicultural organization as WSC realized other immigrant women were facing similar challenges to the first clients from Central and South America. The client demographics have constantly shifted reflecting changes in Canadian immigration patterns. By 2008, the major countries of origin were: China, India, Iran, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Somalia, and Sri Lanka. The top languages spoken by WSC clients are: Mandarin, Gujarati, Hindi, Farsi, Romanian,Russian, Spanish, Tamil, Tagalog, and Urdu.

Over the course of time, WSC has kept ahead of the issues facing immigrant women. We have continuously improved existing programs while initiating new ones to address the multiple and diverse needs of our clients.

40+ Years of Achievements, Change, and Sustainability

• Established on July 3, 1978 under the sponsorship of Working Women Community Centre.
• Mailroom on-the-job training program was implemented for Spanish and Portuguese women.

1980: Incorporated as a not-for-profit organization under the Ontario Corporation Act on May 1, 1980 (No. 443231).

• Published ESL/Life Skills Job Related Manual, the first of its kind because of its focus on labour market issues.
• Sponsored New Experience for Refugee Women.
• WSC begins a tradition of helping other communities establish agencies, such as Skills for Change and Rexdale Microskills.

1984: Hosted the Labour Delegation from the United Kingdom and International Research on Community Economic Development team from Australia.

1986: Developed English as a Second Language (ESL) software.

1987: Established the Language Bridging Program for Immigrant Women on Social Assistance.

1989: Published 1st Edition of “Working Skills for Immigrant Women Manual,” a practical handbook addressing
labour market, workplace, women’s health, and settlement issues.

1990: Established First Steps to Employment Program.

1992: Opened Language Instructions for Newcomers to Canada (LINC).

1996: Established ESL Career Exploration Classes.

2000: Japanese delegation visits WSC: Mayor of Takéfu, Manager of Gender Equality Bureau and other officials learn about the Centre’s programs and services.

2001: Launched WSC Logistics, an international freight forwarding business.

• Released a study examining the struggles and strategies of marginalized immigrant women entitled, “From Canadian Work Experience Dilemma to Participation in the Canadian Labour Market.”
• Palestinian delegation from the Gaza visits WSC as part of a three-city tour to gather information on Canadian community-based solutions to addressing women’s employment issues.
• Presented at Canada’s first Social Investment Forum.
• Launched the downtown Job Track Centre to assist displaced workers affected by SARS.

• New Letters Patent were approved by the Membership at the AGM, expanding the agency mandate to serve all unemployed individuals.
• Launched World Service Cargo, a practice firm, providing Canadian work experience to immigrant women in seven career options: HR, Administration, Sales and Marketing, Finance, IT, Logistics, and Warehousing.

2006: Developed Enhanced Language Training (ELT) curriculum for Accounting and Logistics.

• Completed a research project entitled “Training for the Future” and produced two brochures to assist immigrant women.
• Hosted interns under the Multicultural Youth Initiative from Heritage Canada.

• Academy of Computer & Employment Skills (A.C.E.S.) received its business licence after WSC was registered as a private career college under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005. Two Diploma programs, Computerized Office Administration and Computerized Accounting received Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ approval.
• WSC refurbished the facility and purchases state of the art equipment after receiving a capital grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
• WSC launched a Job Creation Partnership Project to assist individuals receiving EI to find work in their professions.
• WSC hosted “A Celebration of Immigrant Women’s Journey,” a gala to recognize its 30th anniversary and raised over $25,000. As a result, the WSC Scholarship and Bursary Fund was established.

• WSC partnered with Toronto Training Board and Working Women to present “Diversity, A Two Way Accommodation” attended by over 125 representatives of business partners, labour agencies, immigrant job seekers, and government representatives.
• Four new Diploma programs were approved by Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities: Office Clerk, Medical Receptionist, Administrative Assistant with Desktop Publishing, and Supply Chain Clerk.
• WSC’s Executive Director represented smaller agencies on External Reference Group for Employment Ontario’s transformation planning process.
• WSC received Toronto Community Foundation’s Vital Idea Award and launched the Charitable Career Colleges Network.

2010: Awarded a 5-year contract by the City of Toronto to provide Skills Training Directly Linked to Employment
(STDLE) to up to 100 Ontario Works recipients annually.

• WSC hosts dialogues on issues facing individuals with barriers to employment for Deputy Minister delegates in partnership with Skills for Change, ACCES Employment, and Learning Enrichment Foundation.
• WSC partnered with the Toronto Workforce Innovation Group to host “Immigrant Women’s Journeys 2011,” an event geared towards promoting intercultural, interfaith dialogue in Canada
• WSC received Toronto Community Foundation’s Vital Idea Award to explore ways to enhance volunteer opportunities for immigrant women, in partnership with Volunteer Toronto. Three workshops were developed for clients, employers and front-line settlement workers.

• WSC begins SAP Implementation and End-User Programs.
• Microsoft Certification Centre launched.
• WSC hosted “Regent Park Multicultural Harvest Festival” in partnership with Dixon Hall, Christian Resource Centre, and Daniels Corporation.

• WSC launched a second Job Creation Partnership Project to assist individuals receiving EI.
• WSC hosts Transitions: Immigrant Narratives, a free Intercultural Interaction Event funded in part by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
• WSC hosts Pathways to Success: Immigrant Narratives to celebrate its 35th Anniversary and raise funds for the WSC Scholarship and Bursary Fund.

• WSC partners with Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre to launch Career Opportunities for Youth: Training and Work Experience (COYOTE), a program for newcomer and Aboriginal youth
• WSC partners with RBC to launch the Social Cafe, a Saturday program for isolated immigrant women offering workshops and networking

• Contract with City of Toronto is renewed for another 5 years, WSC will provide occupation specific skills training, sector specific career development and employment essentials for up to 100 Ontario Works recipients annually

• Restructuring and cost management initiatives established a stronger financial foundation for the long term stability of the organization
• New Board of Directors closely aligned with WSC’s core values and mission

• Career Launch in Canada Knowledge & Skills (CLICKS) Pilot Program was launched for new Canadians with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration
• WSC’s 40th Anniversary celebrations
• New Horizons Program for Seniors (mentorship) was launched with Government of Canada support
• OCASI Social Justice Award acknowledges WSC’s importance in serving disadvantaged populations

• The CLICKS Pilot Program was completed with an employment success rate of over 75%
• The Building Innovation and Growth — Women Empowerment project was approved for four years with funding from the Federal Ministry for Women and Gender Equality. The project will assist WSC in building the capacity to serve more clients