Abilities Connected helps newcomers with language barriers to get jobs


“It’s local employers that allow people with language barriers to get hired. I recommend organizations that are willing to approach interviews sensitively and make it work for the participants.”

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Businesses and nonprofits regularly open and relocate in Saskatoon. Today, StarPhoenix speaks to Kikoo Ndhlovu, Executive Director of the newly relocated Abilities Connected Employment Project at Confederation Mall.

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Abilities Connected helps people who are new to Canada and have trouble communicating in English to navigate the complex challenges of finding a job. The employment project started four years ago as a home office, but the need for more space brought them to their new location in August.

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Kikoo Ndhlovu, executive director of the non-profit Abilities Connected Employment Project, in her Confederation Mall office on September 13, 2022.
Kikoo Ndhlovu, executive director of the non-profit Abilities Connected Employment Project, in her Confederation Mall office on September 13, 2022. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon Star Phoenix

Q: What made you start the Abilities Connected Employment Project?

A: I worked for another organization as an employment coordinator and noticed the pattern of turning away any newcomers with language barriers. They said: “Due to your language level, we cannot help you. We only support people who have reached language level 5 and above.” So I used to talk to my manager to say, hey, we turn away so many people here, we can help them with their experiences from their home country. If they are enrolled in English courses here in Canada, we can assist them in finding part-time employment so they can do this at the same time. But I’d be told that employers don’t like it because of the safety risk and for whatever reason. So I just decided to open my own position and focus on those with language barriers who are barred from finding paid work.

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Q: Who qualifies to become one of your customers?

A: To meet the criteria, I need to see proof of language proficiency that your Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) ranges from level 1 to 4. You must be a newcomer, permanent resident, or have refugee status, and you must also have this proof of language proficiency. I received a federally funded grant through the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative. That is what the scholarship is all about – to support newcomers with language barriers. I know there are other organizations that offer job placements for anyone else who speaks good English. So I try to focus only on those with language barriers.

Q: What types of services do you offer to your customers?

A: I accompany the customer from the beginning until he gets a job. And then I proceed with follow-ups to check in with both the employer and the participant. If they have any areas that they need to work on, then I make sure all of those things are in place. We assist with resume creation, interview skills, job search, mentoring, internships and life skills development.

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Q: Do you offer training?

A: We have weekly meetings for the benefit of clients. On Tuesdays we offer a group chat where participants can let me know in advance if they will be attending. It is a way for them to practice the English language. You come here to the office and then we just talk about different topics and give each person time to talk and practice their language skills. On Wednesdays we have a computer assistance session where clients can come if they need any help at all with anything with a computer, I’m there to help with that. And then we have a life skills group on Thursdays.

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Q: How important is it to find employers who are willing to give people with language difficulties a chance?

A: It is local employers that allow people with language barriers to get hired. I recommend organizations that are willing to do this Approach interviews sensitively and make it work for participants. Without these open-minded employers it would be difficult to find employment for someone with a language barrier.

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Q: Why did you move to Confederation Mall?

A: I operated from home. This was just a side hustle I did while I had another job. When my scholarship was approved, I had to have space because the scholarship was also for capacity building. That’s how I was able to buy the equipment we need for this type of work. So here we have about 10 computers that clients can access. I chose Confederation Mall because of the free parking, and I think a lot of newcomers live in the area as well.

Q: Why did you choose the name Abilities Connected Employment Project?

A: Because the focus for me is to shine the light on the skills – on what people can do and not on all the barriers. Don’t tell people they don’t have it, so we can’t help you with that. It is important to work with what is available.

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Q: What do you enjoy most about running Abilities Connected?

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A: Just the idea of ​​helping one person every time fills me up. Starting off with someone who doesn’t even know who to turn to, or when I meet them they’re struggling and just getting by on welfare, and then when you start working, from admission to readmission to to leave together with employers for job interviews and then someone works! It’s fulfilling to see all these changes taking place in that person. I feel like I’m making a small difference in someone else’s life.

This interview has been edited and abridged

Kikoo Ndhlovu, executive director of the non-profit Abilities Connected Employment Project, in her Confederation Mall office on September 13, 2022.
Kikoo Ndhlovu, executive director of the non-profit Abilities Connected Employment Project, in her Confederation Mall office on September 13, 2022. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon Star Phoenix

Skills Connected Employment Project Inc. (ACEP)

Non-Profit Managing Director: Kikoo Ndhlovu (Executive Director), Charles Thuma (Treasurer), Vuyoh Mafukidze (Administrator)
Address: Confederation Mall (near Sobey’s)
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m
Phone: 306-880-7573
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: abilitiesconnected.com/canadian-pages
Check: Facebook

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