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Automotive course, training provides Syrian refugee with new start

Two men talk while leaning over an open car engine bay. The car and both men's workwear is also blue. They are in an automotive shop.
Fadi Almouazzen works in the Akerley Automotive Repair shop.

It’s been a trying journey, but after fleeing Syria and spending five years in Jordan, 21-year-old Fadi Almouazzen has settled in Canada with his family and found a career path he loves: auto mechanics. This new passion was sparked by a training opportunity for newcomers to Canada and an NSCC automotive course.

Fadi participated first in the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) Immigrant Youth Employability Project. This includes ten weeks of employment training – ranging from resumé and interview preparation, to essential skills and World Host training. While the automotive installer training was outside the scope of the youth program, ISANS gave Fadi the go ahead to head to NSCC.

“I love Canada,” Fadi says, “The people in Halifax are so friendly and welcoming. I’ve been working different jobs since I was 13 to help support my parents and brother. Having the chance to take the customized training course at NSCC introduced me to new skills and also to my love of this work,” he says. “The teachers were great and I found out I really liked working on cars in the shops.”

The idea of a four-week, customized training course was inspired by Gord MacKenzie, Trades & Technology Academic Chair at Akerley Campus, and was welcomed and supported by Mohja Alia at ISANS.

“I was taken with the stories we were hearing on the news when Canada began welcoming Syrian refugees in earnest,” Gord says. “Like so many others, we were looking for ways to help. Some staff quickly collected teddy bears to give to the children, as an example. When I connected with staff at ISANS, we worked together and found three areas of skills development that could form the basis of customized training. These were construction, motive power and culinary – all aligned with training capabilities at Akerley and labour needs within our community.”

While the program was first designed for those with higher language levels, ISANS equipped students with language instruction around safety, safety training certification and personal protection equipment (PPE) before beginning their training at NSCC. The students were supported by ISANS interpreters and faculty, along with guidance from an employment readiness program.

Our students were so thankful for the training, the instructors' guidance and the tools needed so they are ready to start working. The whole NSCC team is key to the success of this program.

Mohja Alia

It takes a community

Gord adds that College and Campus colleagues, including customized training staff and faculty members Dave Giles, Rick Long and volunteer instructor Luke Monk, quickly jumped on board to pull the curriculum together and put in the extra hours needed to provide the instruction. The partnership also created a separate, weeklong course on food handling.

Gord says, “Although there were several challenges including language barriers, with hard work on all sides, it somehow all worked and the campus community and industry stepped up and supported the new students with a warm welcome. It was great.”

Local businesses, such as Part Source, CarQuest and Shell Canada, came forward with donations including oil and supplies along with support to help students network with automotive businesses in the area. Gord notes that there were incredible acts of kindness from the campus community, such as a faculty member who gathered business clothing to help students dress for job interviews.

Mohja Alia, Manager for Employment & Bridging at ISANS was pleased with the connection made and training provided.

“The curriculum involves shop and computer training, instruction on important safety practices and study needed to prepare our clients to work in a Canadian environment. The instructors are wonderful – patient, passionate and always going above and beyond the call of duty. Hand-in-hand we solved any problems together.”

Fadi is now on the road to his new career – through an apprenticeship opportunity with O’Regan's Automotive Group. A fresh start in his new home.

Fast Fact

ISANS says of the clients who have completed the first Automotive Installers course, four are employed as automotive technician apprentices and one is working as a collision technician apprentice. The Trades Practical Assessment, funded by Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, contributed to their success. All clients are receiving English in the Workplace to support their learning process.